UN launches operation to prevent environmental disaster off the coast of Yemen

    WORLD  03 June 2023 - 14:57

    The United Nations officially launched its mission this week to prevent what it says could be an "environmental catastrophe" on the Red Sea. Sitting off the coast of Yemen lies a nearly half-century-old ship with roughly 1.14 million barrels of crude oil on board, the global agency said – and it's "deteriorating rapidly." 

    The massive 47-year-old supertanker, FSO Safer, rests just about 5 1/2 miles off of Yemen's coast, where it has gone without maintenance for seven years, CBS reports. 

    "Its structural integrity is compromised, and it is deteriorating rapidly," the UN says. "There is a serious risk the vessel could be struck by a floating mine, spontaneously explode or break apart at any moment." 

    Officials have been pushing for the situation to be addressed for years. In 2020, the U.N.'s Environment executive director Inger Andersen warned that if the oil on that ship was to leak into the water, it could unleash four times more oil than what was released in Alaska's Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989, which affected more than 1,300 miles of shoreline and killed thousands of birds and sea otters, hundreds of seals and nearly two dozen killer whales. 

    To this day, several species are still considered not to have recovered from the incident, according to NOAA, and the spill was one of the nation's biggest environmental disasters in recent history.

    And it would only be an added strain on the region's environment. On Africa's West Coast, millions of barrels of oil have been spilled in the Niger Delta for decades, leading to environmental damage, lawsuits and protests.

    If this tanker were to burst open, the U.N. estimates it would cost $20 billion to clean up and could affect 17 million people while destroying coral reefs, mangroves and other forms of sea life, making it "one of the worst oil spills in human history."

    "Coastal communities would be hit hardest. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in the fishing industry would be lost almost overnight," the U.N. says. "It would take 25 years for fish stocks to recover."

    Caliber.Az

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