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Environmentalists censure Kuwait media blackout on oil spill

Kuwait has been criticized for its cover-up of an oil spill in the Persian Gulf waters as an environmental campaigning group says authorities did not issue proper warning about the disaster which now threatens human life on the beaches.

Khaled al-Hajeri, the president of Kuwait's Green Line Society, said Sunday that Kuwaiti authorities were too late to inform the public about an oil spill in the Persian Gulf waters which the non-profit organization said began days ago but went unnoticed due to the government’s reluctance to give details.

“This media blackout is intentional, and wrong. People have the right to know. This will have an impact on the fish, the food people consume, and it directly affects their health and safety,” said Hajeri, adding, that the Kuwaiti government should be held into account for any potential damage or health effect that the new spill in the Persian Gulf could cause.

The environment activist said the area affected by the spill was close to residential habitats but the government deliberately avoided issuing warnings to people.

“The government failed to issue a statement communicating the severity of this disaster. There was no warning to people against fishing or entering the polluted area, even though it is close to some of the most popular summer destinations in Kuwait,” Hajeri said.

Reports Sunday said Kuwait was grappling as oil spill struck its waters off the southern area of Ras al-Zour. The area is home to the oil and natural gas fields shared by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and lies north of al-Khiran, a private resort where many Kuwaitis spend most of the summer in beach houses. The continued spill threatens to damage power plants and water stations as beaches are stained and long black slicks have been left in the Persian Gulf waters.

Kuwait's Environment Public Authority said an investigation had been launched, warning that prosecution would await those who initiated the spill. The agency would not elaborate on where the spill began but said it was not likely from Kuwait’s oil fields.

“There will be severe consequences to those responsible for this incident, and we will prosecute them,” said Sheikh Abdullah al-Sabah, a member of Kuwait’s royal family who heads the country’s environment agency.

The official news agency KUNA said the immediate priority for the authorities was to protect the waterways, power plants and water facilities and then they would begin cleaning up surrounding beaches. It said booms have been spread into the waters to contain the spill.

There was no clear estimate about the number of oil barrels spilled. Authorities said Kuwait was relying on American oil firm Chevron Corp. and containment specialists Oil Spill Response Limited for the cleanup.

Saudi Arabia, which also uses Chevron for operations on its side, also began carrying out aerial survey in the area. A statement carried by state-run Saudi Press Agency said an emergency action plan was in place to deal with potential impacts of the spill on Saudi waters and facilities.


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