Israel closes beaches after major oil spill devastates coast

Authorities closed all beaches in the country following the disaster (Photo: AP/Ariel Shalit)

Israel has suffered one of the worst environmental disasters in its history after an oil spill nearly 100 miles from its coastline.

The country was forced to close all Mediterranean beaches on Sunday, while thousands of volunteers and soldiers loaned by the army tried to clean up the contaminated shores.

Several volunteers were taken to hospital yesterday after inhaling toxic fumes.

The Ministries of the Interior, Environment and Health on Sunday urged the public to stay away from swimming, sports and recreational beaches until further notice. She added that exposure to tar can endanger public health.

Last week, large globs of black tar appeared on the coast after a violent storm washed tons of tar onto the shore and destroyed marine life.

The coast was hit Tuesday and Wednesday by strong winds and heavy waves, which washed refinery by-products onto beaches stretching 96 miles from Rosh Hanikra in southern Lebanon to Ashkelon in the northern Gaza Strip.

Scientists examine the body of a dead whale fin that washed ashore at Nitzanim (Photo: Getty)

The coastline was covered with thick clumps of black tar (Photo: Reuters).

The oil spill has devastated marine life along the entire coast (Photo: AFP)

Authorities are calling the leak one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history.

The Agriculture Ministry has confirmed that a young, dead finned fish stranded on a beach in southern Israel died after swallowing a viscous black liquid, the Israeli public television station Kan reported.

The Ministry of Environment estimates that the tar would have come from tens or even hundreds of tons of oil spilled by the ship.

However, the leak is still under investigation and its cause has not yet been confirmed by authorities.

The oil spill has been described as one of the worst environmental disasters in the country’s history (Photo: AFP)

Workers bury a 17-metre-long dead finned fish that washed ashore on Nitzanim beach near the city of Ashkelon (Photo: AFP)

An extensive cleanup operation has begun nearly 100 miles from the shoreline (Photo: AP)

People clean tar from an oil spill in the Mediterranean Sea in the Gador nature reserve near Hadera (Photo: AP)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the government will provide funds to support the mass cleanup tomorrow.

Environment Minister Gila Gamliel estimated that the project to clean the beach would cost tens of millions of shekels.

She said: We must look to the future – these and similar events around the world show us how important it is to move away from these polluting fuels and towards renewable energy sources.

In 2014, an oil spill in the Arava Desert caused significant damage to one of the country’s fragile ecosystems.

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