x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Fujairah oil spill hits tourist beaches

The slick stretched from Khor Fakkan to Al Aqah.

FUJAIRAH // An oil slick caused by illegal dumping is one of the worst to hit Fujairah's beaches in years, residents say.

The spill this week stretched almost 10 kilometres from Khor Fakkan to Al Aqah.

"We are trying to clean up the oil as fast as we can," said Mohamed al Afkham, general manager of Fujairah Municipality.

The Ministry of Environment and the National Transportation Authority will work with the municipality to try to discover the cause of the spill.

Tankers that dump offshore at night are believed to be responsible for many of the spills.

The municipality's clean-up operation is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dirhams. The slick has also damaged tourism in the area.

"Guests who come to Fujairah like to use the sea, but when the oil comes they cannot swim. You cannot even walk on the beach because of the oil," Shaminda Kumara, an instructor and supervisor at the Sandy Beach Dive Centre, said.

He estimates that his company loses Dh5,000 each day during a heavy oil slick. "Now it has already gone because there is heavy wind. Normally it happens every year but we cannot tell exactly when it will come and when it will go."

Strong winds broke up a 50-metre slick seen near Sharm on Tuesday. At other places on the coast, the oil was not visible in the water, but left marks in the sand and on boats.

Oil and tar frequently washes on to beaches in summer, but the problem was believed to have improved in recent years.

"It was an unusually increased amount that caused disturbance to guests," Patrick Antaki, general manager of Le Meridien al Aqah hotel, said.

"When they walked on the beach, they came back with tar on their feet," he said.

azacharias@thenational.ae