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Syrian oil spill dissolving, drifting away

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Alarm over an oil spill from Syria heading for Cyprus shores has ended after authorities said the latest imagery shows it is moving away from the island.

Cypriot authorities said on Wednesday that an oil leak from a Syrian power station has started to dissolve and is drifting away from Cyprus.

According to an announcement by the Fisheries Department, monitoring the situation, “the sheen appears to be dissolving into smaller parts, which are drifting away from Cyprus”.

It said they are monitoring the situation with aircraft and vessels dispatched to the area.

Traces of an oil sheen near the area of Cape Greco in Ayia Napa were reported.

“According to the latest satellite image, compared to previous satellite data and updated dispersion models, the sources of marine pollution (oil sheen) east of Cyprus are gradually disintegrating and dissolving,” the department said.

“Based on the field research so far, covering an area of ​​900 square nautical miles, there is no presence of oil spill residues in the sea area inside the gulf of Famagusta northeast of Cape Greco.”

The bi-communal Technical Committee on the Environment also confirmed that the main body of the oil sheen is now moving away from the island.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, the Greek Cypriot head of the committee, Michalis Loizides, said imagery shows the oil slick moving away from the island’s eastern coasts.

Cyprus was bracing itself for a potential environmental disaster, as initial satellite imagery showed an oil sheen 36 kilometres long, moving towards the island.

(Video shows Turkish officials cleaning polluted waters 14 km off the Karpas Peninsula and retrieving a dead turtle)

On Wednesday, the main body of the oil slick appeared to be still heading for the northeastern tip of the island, with some reports in Turkish Cypriot media saying it was spotted off coasts.

Fuat Oktay, Turkey’s Vice President in charge of Turkish Cypriots affairs, said the sheen was 12 miles off the Karpas peninsula.

The oil slick from a Syrian power plant was attributed to an accident at the Baniyas Thermal Station last Thursday.

Turkish Cypriot officials said all precautions against the oil spill were being taken.

Seven Turkish vessels were heading to the area, ready to take action, if necessary, while Greek Cypriot officials in the south said they offered help and were prepared to take action if there was a change in direction.

Nicosia said an oil recovery vessel had been made available to Cyprus by the European Maritime Safety Agency upon request to be deployed if needed.