Oil Spill Reaches Syrian Coastline

First Satellite Imagery Shows that Oil Spill Reaches Syrian Coastline

Access is Needed for Immediate Clean-up

2 August 2006, Nairobi/Athens — The oil spill that has already polluted over 80 kilometres of the Lebanese coastline has reached the Syrian coastline and is spreading further north. Satellite imagery from the European Commission (EC) now shows that the oil slick has entered Syrian waters and has already contaminated approximately 10 kilometres of coastline north of the borders between Syria and Lebanon.

“It is nearly three weeks since the bombing of the power plant and the initial satellite imagery unfortunately confirms that the oil spill is of a significant magnitude and spreading. A coordinated response must urgently be allowed to proceed, so that we can limit the immediate environmental damage as well as the longer terms implications for the economy and the Lebanese people”, said United Nations Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP, speaking from Nairobi.

“Now it has become even more vital to take immediate action. In addition to the humanitarian circumstances, an environmental catastrophe is threatening the Mediterranean region”, said Mr Paul Mifsud, the Coordinator of the United Nations Environment Programme - Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP-MAP). “Hostilities must cease to guarantee immediate safe access to the affected area”.

In a letter addressed to UNEP-MAP in Athens today, the Syrian Minister of Local Administration and Environment Mr Helal Al-Atrash asked UNEP-MAP “to send professional companies to control the spilled oil on the shoreline and territorial waters […] and to send experts for the assessment of environmental degradation costs”.

The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC), one of UNEP-MAP’s Regional Activities Centres, has requested the Government of Cyprus to run a spill forecast model, called MEDSLIK. Developed specifically for the eastern Mediterranean, it can provide indication whether or not a part of the oil could reach other Mediterranean coastal States, north of Lebanon.

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The analysis is conducted by the Oceanographic Centre of Cyprus, and initial results show that 80% of the oil remains on and off the Lebanese shoreline, while only less than 20% evaporated.

Following a request of support to the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention, REMPEC has already received replies from nine entities offering assistance: Algeria, Cyprus, the European Commission, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain and Syria.

Meanwhile, REMPEC officially placed its Mediterranean Assistance Unit (MAU) on stand-by and is preparing for the mission of a senior expert to the affected area, as soon as security clearance is received.

Notes to Editors:

Images by the EC Civil Protection Unit can be downloaded from the following website:


As far as movement of any possible oil slick at sea is concerned, satellite images have been obtained from several sources. However, the initial results and the satellite images currently available should only be considered as an indication at this stage.

The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) is one of the MAP Regional Activities Centres and is based in Malta. It is jointly administered by the UN International Maritime Organization and UNEP-MAP. For further information please contact Luisa Colasimone, UNEP/MAP, +30 6 949 122 746

REMPEC helps Mediterranean coastal states build up their national prevention and response capabilities to be prepared for major marine pollution incidents, in accordance with Article 10 of the 1976 Emergency Protocol, and Article 12 of 2002 Prevention and Emergency Protocol of the Barcelona Convention..

The Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean – also known as the Barcelona Convention - is the legal framework for the implementation of the Mediterranean Action Plan with a Secretariat based in Athens.

The Barcelona Convention was adopted by the Mediterranean Countries and the European Community in 1976 in order to coordinate their activities and take all appropriate measures to prevent, abate combat and eliminate pollution of the Mediterranean sea and enhance the marine and coastal environment so as to contribute towards sustainable development.

For More Information Please Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson, on Tel: +254 20 7623084 or E-mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org

Or Elisabeth Waechter, Associate Media Officer, on Tel: +254 20 7623088, E-mail: Elisabeth.waechter@unep.org

UNEP News Release 2006/38


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