Putin declares state of emergency over oil spill

AFP
A diesel reservoir collapsed at a power station outside the northern Siberian city of Norilsk on Friday, dumping 15,000 tons of fuel into a river and 6,000 tons into the soil.
AFP

Russian emergency workers and marine clean-up specialists yesterday intensified efforts to clean up a major fuel spill that environmentalists say is the first such accident in the Arctic polar region.

A diesel reservoir collapsed at a power station outside the northern Siberian city of Norilsk on Friday, dumping 15,000 tons of fuel into a river and 6,000 tons into the soil, according to Russia’s state environmental watchdog.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered a state of emergency to deal with the disaster.

Reinforcements arrived at the remote location yesterday, said Andrei Malov, spokesman for Russia’s Marine Rescue Service, which cleans up marine spills and was called in at the weekend.

“There haven’t been such spills in the Arctic before,” he said. “It needs to be collected very quickly because the fuel is dissolving in the water.”

The Ambarnaya River, which is the worst-affected by the spill, feeds into Lake Pyasino, a major body of water and the source of the Pyasina River that is vitally important to the entire Taimyr Peninsula.

Malov said the service has put up six oil containment booms in the Ambarnaya River to stop the spill going into the lake and was using special devices to skim off the fuel.

But the clean-up mission is being hampered by the lack of roads in the area and chilly weather that has already caused blocks of ice to breach the barriers, releasing more fuel towards the lake, Malov said.

“It’s swampy territory, and everything can only be delivered there on all-terrain vehicles,” Malov said, predicting that the collected fuel will have to stay on site until the winter in special tanks.

The difficult terrain prompted some officials to suggest the fuel should be burned off at the scene.

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