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Lebanese clear tar pollution from turtle beach

28 February 2021, MVT 12:53
Young volunteers clean a contaminated beach in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre on February 27, 2021, following last week's offshore oil spill that drenched the northern Israeli coastline and reached parts of the neighbouring Lebanese beaches. (Photo by Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
Hussein Hamza, a Lebanese environmental activist, shows off his hands covered with tar-soaked sands at the Tyre Nature Reserve, considered a destination for sea turtles to lay eggs, in Lebanon's southern coastal city of Tyre on February 22, 2021. - Israeli authorities on warned people to keep away from the country's Mediterranean shore to avoid a massive tar slick, as thousands of labourers and volunteers worked to clean contaminated beaches. Powerful winds and unusually high waves pummelled the southeastern Mediterranean coastline with tonnes of tar staining 160 kilometres (96 miles) of beaches along the coast from Gaza to Lebanon. (Photo by Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
28 February 2021, MVT 12:53

Lebanese on Saturday raked balls of tar away from a turtle beach in the south of the country, as a massive slick washed ashore after hitting neighbouring Israel.

A storm more than a week ago threw tonnes of the sticky, black substance onto the beaches of the Jewish state, apparently after leaking from a ship.

Within days the spill had spread to southern Lebanon, where clumps of tar contaminated beaches stretching from the border town of Naqura to the southern city of Tyre.

The swathe of coastline, which includes some of the country's best preserved beaches, is a nesting site for turtles which usually appear later in the year.

On Saturday morning, mask-clad volunteers and members of the civil defence sifted blobs of tar out of sand on the beach of the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve, an AFP journalist said.

"The Tyre reserve has been hit by about two tonnes of tar, 90 percent of which is now hidden in the sand," said Mouin Hamze, the head of the National Council for Scientific Research.

The clean-up of the reserve could last up to two more weeks, he told AFP.

The protected zone covers 3.8 square kilometres (almost 1.5 square miles) of beach as well as adjacent sea waters, according to its website.

As well as endangered loggerhead and green sea turtles, the beach provides shelter for the Arabian spiny mouse.

Hamze had said previously that the pollution could continue washing up on Lebanese shores for up to three months.

A survey of the area using drones is not yet complete, but he said the damage was extensive in the south while tar had even landed on the beach further north in the capital Beirut.

Tyre, Lebanon | AFP

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