Major Catastrophe Possible Eilat Gulf Threatened by Oil Pollution, Oceanographer Warns

The Gulf of Eilat is seriously threatened with “ecological disaster” by oil pollution from supertankers now that Eilat has become a major oil port, a Hebrew University oceanographer asserted here yesterday. His warning coincided with similar expressions of concern by experts attending the first International Conference on Pollution which opened in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

Prof. Dov Por, director of the Hebrew University marine biology laboratory at Eilat, told a press conference that only luck so far had averted a major oil spill calamity at Israel’s southernmost port. He said 25 million tons of oil are being pumped into the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline from giant tankers annually. He said the second largest oil port in Europe, Mil-ford Haven in Wales, in comparison, pumped 41 million tons in 1970. He added some tankers now entering the Eilat Gulf are larger than the supertanker Torrey Canyon, which polluted extensive stretches of the British and French seacoasts several years ago.

NO MEASURES TAKEN

Prof. Por asserted that Israeli officials have made no preparations to cope with an oil spillage of even moderate proportions. He said such a disaster could occur by collision between a tanker and another ship, by a tanker running aground on a reef or by enemy action. He said oil pollution could destroy the “incomparable” marine life of the gulf and ruin tourism in Eilat and along the entire Sinai coast bordering it. He noted that 40 percent of the Eilat population lived off tourism and that 1500 hotel rooms were being built to augment the existing 800 rooms. He warned that serious oil spills would destroy coral and fish and make the waters unusable for swimming.

Technion is serving as host for the pollution conference which is sponsored by the White House Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the US Interior Department. Other sponsors are the Society of Engineering Science, Washington University of St. Louis, Princeton University, the Israel Association of Architects, the Technion, and the Israeli Ministries of Interior and Housing.

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