Officials Keeping a Close Eye on Aqaba Oil Spill

Eilat. Photo by Moshe Shai/FLASH90
Eilat. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The Environment Ministry is keeping a close eye on an oil spill in Aqaba, on the Jordanian side of the Gulf of Eilat. Over 200 tons of oil leaked from a terminal on the Red Sea, in the narrow bay shared by both Israel and Jordan. Officials fear that the oil spill could not only end up closing Eilat’s beaches at the height of tourist season, but also endanger the many rare species of tropical fish and unique corals in the area.

Foreign Ministry officials said that Jordanian authorities were busy cleaning the mess using their own resources. The Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company has offered its services in helping to clean up the oil. Israeli officials are closely tracking the movement of the large patch of oil that has marred the sea, and are preparing to take emergency measures if it drifts onto the Israeli side of the bay.

Israeli officials said that they are in constant contact with Jordanian officials about the problem, and that Israeli technology, manpower, and other assistance are at the Jordanian’s disposal if they wish to take advantage of it. According to initial observations, it appears that the oil patch is drifting south, towards Saudi Arabia, but that does not lessen the impact of the spill on the entire Gulf, said officials, especially to the coral reefs that abound in the area and are very sensitive to pollution.

Speaking Wednesday morning, Environment Minister Ze’ev Elkin said that tourists and others who had planned to travel to Eilat should not change their plans. “Right now the sea is perfectly safe,” he said. “I am in Eilat and I took my children to the beach this morning. If anyone needed proof that we in the Ministry believe things are safe, there it is.”