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20,000 tonnes of diesel spill into Arctic Circle river – Putin declares state of emergency

The leaked diesel oil drifted some 12km (7.5 miles) from the site of the accident PHOTO: AFP

PortandTerminal.com, June 4, 2020

The release of more than 20,000 tons of diesel in the environmentally fragile Siberian ecosystem is said to be one of the country’s worst such accidents.

MOSCOW – It has long been every environmentalist’s nightmare and now it has happened. A fuel tank at a power plant near the Siberian city of Norilsk collapsed last Friday spilling 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle turning it crimson red.

The leaked oil drifted some 12km (7.5 miles) from the accident site, turning long stretches of the Ambarnaya river crimson red. The satellite image in the interactive map below demonstrates the distance the spill has moved between May 31st and June 1st as it makes its way towards the Arctic Ocean.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has declared a state of emergency but the damage is done.

Elena Panova, the Russian deputy minister of national resources and the environment, said on Thursday during an online news conference that it would take at least 10 years for the local ecosystem to recover, 

The spill has contaminated a 350 sq km (135 sq mile) area, state media report.

The accident is believed to be the second-largest in modern Russian history in terms of volume, an expert from the World Wildlife Fund, Alexei Knizhnikov, told the AFP news agency. 

In a statement, Greenpeace Russia compared the discharge to the Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska in 1989.

Now it is a race to stop the oil before it reaches the ocean and does further damage to the environment.

Map of Russia

Plant director arrested

Rusty diesel storage tank.
The source of the spill: Part of the power plant in Norilsk PHOTO: Getty Images

The spill happened when a fuel tank at a power plant near the Siberian city of Norilsk collapsed last Friday.

 Norilsk Nickel, which owns the plant, said in a statement that thawing permafrost had caused one of the tank’s pillars to collapse. Norilsk Nickel is the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer.

Man seated in green barred jail. Laptop. Guard. Masks.
Power plant manager Vyacheslav Starostin has been detained PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

The power plant’s director Vyacheslav Starostin has been taken into custody until 31 July, but not yet charged.

The Russian Investigative Committee (SK) has launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence, as there was reportedly a two-day delay in informing the Moscow authorities about the spill.

President Putin expressed anger after discovering officials only learned about the incident on Sunday.

Russian Minister for Emergencies Yevgeny Zinichev told Mr Putin that the Norilsk plant had spent two days trying to contain the spill, before alerting his ministry.

The region’s governor, Alexander Uss, had earlier told President Putin that he became aware of the oil spill on Sunday after “alarming information appeared in social media”.

“Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact?” Mr. Putin said. “Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media?”

The company, along with the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, dispatched hundreds of personnel to clean up the mess. So far, Norilsk Nickel said, they had managed to gather up only around 340 tons of the oil.

Special containment booms were installed in the Ambarnaya River in an effort to prevent the spill from entering the nearby Lake Pyasino and after that the Kara Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean.

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