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Kuwait City beaches ‘free of oil’

KUWAIT: A Kuwaiti woman walks past a sign reading in Arabic: “for your safety swimming and fishing are temporarily banned” at a beach in Kuwait City yesterday. An oil spill was discovered recently off the Kuwaiti coast, and pollution was also detected at some beaches in the country. —Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

KUWAIT: Investigations by Kuwait Times reveal that social media rumors of a recent oil spill reaching the shores of Kuwait City are baseless. Kuwait Times visited six different beaches in and around Kuwait: Messilah, Shuwaikh, Anjafa and several spots in Salmiya and found no evidence of crude oil. Signs posted at several of the beaches, including one at Anjafa beach, warned visitors against swimming in the water, as a temporary precaution.

On August 12, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation announced that it was working to clean up an oil spill – estimated at around 34,000 gallons according to a US-based NGO – that took place near Ras Al Zour off the southern coast of Kuwait. “Nearby beaches will be cleaned once power and water plants are secured and the oil spill is put under full control,” a KPC statement from the day announced. Ras Al-Zour is where Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) is building the Middle East’s largest oil refinery with a capacity of 615,000 per day and $11.5 billion worth of contracts.

The extent of the spill or its source was not revealed. But an analysis of satellite imagery by a US-based nonprofit organization suggests at least 34,000 gallons of oil have leaked out during a spill off the coast of Kuwait. West Virginia-based SkyTruth says satellite photos from the day of the spill off southern Kuwait show it spread over a distance covering 131 square kilometers (50.5 square miles). In the United States and throughout the oil industry world-wide, an oil barrel is defined as 42 US gallons, which is about 159 liters or 35 imperial gallons.

In a blog post last week, SkyTruth also noted a pipe-laying ship was transiting through the area at the time of the spill. Authorities have yet to definitively identify the source of the leak, though they initially suspected it came from a tanker. According to Khaled Al-Hajri, Environmental activist and the Head of the Green Line Environmental Group the situation is mysterious.

“Almost two weeks past of the first oil spill in Ras Al Zour and the official authorities didn’t unveil the source of this spill. This is really strange. Unofficial news claimed that the company in charge of investigating the reason of the oil spill knows the source but is keeping it secret. This area is monitored by satellite 24 hours a day, so I believe they can easily find the cause,” he told the Kuwait Times. A second oil slick was reported off the coast of Abu Fatira two days after the Zour spill, estimated at one nautical mile long according to an Environmental Public Authority statement. No source was revealed for the second spill either.

By Nawara Fattahova

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