Israel shuts Mediterranean shore after oil devastates coast

Israel shuts Mediterranean shore after oil devastates coast
Danny Morick, marine veterinarian, takes samples from a 17 meters (about 55 feet) long dead fin whale washed up on a beach in Nitzanim Reserve, Israel, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Aviad Scheinin of the Morris Kahn Marine Research Station said samples from the animal will be taken to try to determine a cause of death, officials said the water nearby is polluted, including with tar. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israel closed all its Mediterranean beaches until further notice on Sunday, days after an offshore oil spill deposited an estimated dozens of tons of tar across more than 100 miles of coastline in what officials are calling one of the country's worst ecological disasters.

Activists began reporting globs of black tar on Israel's coast last week after a heavy storm washed the petroleum byproducts ashore, wreaking havoc on wildlife. Researchers with the country's Agriculture Ministry determined Sunday that a dead young fin whale that washed up on a in southern Israel died from ingesting the viscous black liquid, according to Kan, Israel's .

Israel's Nature and Parks Authority has called the spill "one of the most serious ecological disasters" in the country's history. In 2014, a crude oil spill in the Arava Desert caused extensive damage to one of the country's delicate ecosystems.

The exact cause of the has yet to be determined and is currently under investigation by Israeli environmental officials.

Volunteers took to the beaches on Saturday to help clean up the tar, and several were hospitalized after they inhaled .

The Environmental Protection, Health and Interior Ministries issued a joint statement Sunday warning the public not to visit the entire length of the country's 195 km (120 mile) Mediterranean coastline, cautioning that "exposure to tar can be harmful to ."

  • Israel shuts Mediterranean shore after oil devastates coast
    Danny Morick, marine veterinarian, and Aviad Scheinin take samples from a 17 meters (about 55 feet) long dead fin whale washed up on a beach in Nitzanim Reserve, Israel, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Aviad Scheinin of the Morris Kahn Marine Research Station said samples from the animal will be taken to try to determine a cause of death, officials said the water nearby is polluted, including with tar. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • Israel shuts Mediterranean shore after oil devastates coast
    A surfer cleans his tar covered surfboard from an oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea in Gador nature reserve near Hadera, Israel, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Hundreds of volunteers are taking part in a cleanup operation of Israeli shoreline as investigations are underway to determine the cause of an oil spill that threatens the beach and wildlife, at Gador Nature Reserve near the northern city of Hadera, the tar smeared fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • Israel shuts Mediterranean shore after oil devastates coast
    A woman cleans rocks covered in tar from an oil spill in the Mediterranean sea in Gador nature reserve near Hadera, Israel, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Hundreds of volunteers are taking part in a cleanup operation of Israeli shoreline as investigations are underway to determine the cause of an oil spill that threatens the beach and wildlife, at Gador Nature Reserve near the northern city of Hadera, the tar smeared fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • Israel shuts Mediterranean shore after oil devastates coast
    People clean tar from an oil spill in the Mediterranean sea in Gador nature reserve near Hadera, Israel, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Hundreds of volunteers are taking part in a cleanup operation of Israeli shoreline as investigations are underway to determine the cause of an oil spill that threatens the beach and wildlife, at Gador Nature Reserve near the northern city of Hadera, the tar smeared fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • Israel shuts Mediterranean shore after oil devastates coast
    Tar pieces from an oil spill stuck on rocks in the Mediterranean sea as it reached Gador nature reserve near Hadera, Israel, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Hundreds of volunteers are taking part in a cleanup operation of Israeli shoreline as investigations are underway to determine the cause of an oil spill that threatens the beach and wildlife, at Gador Nature Reserve near the northern city of Hadera, the tar smeared fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
  • Israel shuts Mediterranean shore after oil devastates coast
    People clean tar from an oil spill in the Mediterranean sea in Gador nature reserve near Hadera, Israel, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. Hundreds of volunteers are taking part in a cleanup operation of Israeli shoreline as investigations are underway to determine the cause of an oil spill that threatens the beach and wildlife, at Gador Nature Reserve near the northern city of Hadera, the tar smeared fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel told Hebrew media that her department estimates the clean-up project will cost tens of millions of shekels.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu toured one of the country's tar-pocked beaches on Sunday and praised the ministry's work.

The ministry did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.


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