Russia sees melting permafrost behind Arctic fuel spill

Published June 6, 2020
A SATELLITE image captured on June 1 by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission shows the extent of an oil spill after some 20,000 tonnes of diesel leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle.—AFP
A SATELLITE image captured on June 1 by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission shows the extent of an oil spill after some 20,000 tonnes of diesel leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle.—AFP

MOSCOW: An unprecedented fuel spill that has polluted huge stretches of Arctic rivers was caused by melting permafrost, Russian officials said on Friday, ordering a review of similar structures in vulnerable zones.

The spill — which has coloured remote tundra waterways with bright red patches visible from space — has highlighted Russia’s vulnerability to climate change as areas locked by permafrost for centuries thaw amid warmer temperatures.

News of the cause of the accident came amid a huge cleanup effort outside the Arctic city of Norilsk which President Vladimir Putin said should be bankrolled by metals giant Norilsk Nickel.

A national-level state of emergency was announced after 21,000 tonnes of diesel fuel spilled from a reservoir that collapsed last Friday which Norilsk Nickel owns through a subsidiary.

Three criminal probes have been launched, and Russia’s prosecutor general’s office said in a statement that preliminary findings indicate sagging ground as the reason for the collapse.

Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2020

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