Conflict sullies beaches

Published July 29, 2006

BEIRUT, Lebanon - A black coat of oil now covers the Lebanese capital's once-beautiful sandy Mediterranean shore, spilled from a power plant that was knocked down by Israeli warplanes two weeks ago.

About 80 miles of Lebanon's shores have been affected by a spill of more than 110,000 barrels of oil from the Jiyeh plant, about 12 miles south of Beirut, the city's mayor, Abdel Monem Ariss, said Friday.

Ariss said there appeared to be other factors contributing to the country's worst environmental disaster: a leak from an Egyptian commercial boat that was apparently hit by a Hezbollah missile, another from an Israeli gunboat also hit by Hezbollah, and effluent from a Lebanese cement factory hit by Israeli forces.

Cleanup material from Kuwait was to arrive Friday night, but crews can't get to the shores because of the hostilities, Ariss said.

Fishermen on Beirut's only sandy public beach of Ramlet al-Baida said the black slick appeared about 10 days ago. Some residents have said they had problems breathing.

Fisherman Salim Yazmanji, 32, said as many as 100 fish can wash up on every 30-foot stretch of the beach and that he had lost his livelihood.

Ariss fears the spill will spread to the rest of the Mediterranean.

"I think there will be more than Lebanon that is going to be involved in this oil spill," he said.