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UN Fears Decaying Oil Tanker Already Spilling
Maxar Satellite image of the FSO Safer tanker moored off Ras Issa port, in Yemen, on June 17, 2020. ©2020 Maxar Technologies.

UN Fears Decaying Oil Tanker Already Spilling

The oil tanker stranded for over five years off the coast of Yemen has begun to leak and is in clear and present danger of causing a historic environmental disaster in the Red Sea, Saudi officials warned Wednesday. In an urgent letter to the United Nations Security Council that was first revealed by Reuters, the Saudi ambassador reported an “oil spot” that had recently emerged 50 km west of the decaying vessel, which is said to hold over 1.1 million barrels of crude oil. Experts believe one of the pipelines has finally given way and separated from the Safer tanker, enabling an amount of oil four times that of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska to spill freely into the Red Sea. A UN team of scientists, engineers and divers has been waiting for a formal authorization from Yemen’s Houthi group to approach the ship and conduct initial repairs. Yet thanks to the ongoing war in Yemen between the Iran-backed Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition and the deep mistrust and suspicion between all parties, such a mission has been made impossible thus far.

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