CAIRO: The recent oil spill in the Red Sea, which environmental activists believe to be ongoing, could lead the government to cut down the number of oil platforms in the Suez Gulf.
Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy told the People’s Assembly on Tuesday that he is mulling a cut down on the number of oil platforms in the Suez Gulf in the wake of the recent spill off the coast of Hurghada.
But while the government maintains that the spill is contained and with limited effect, an environmental group said the oil started leaking again on Monday.
The Associated Press reported that an environmental group based in the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada said that the government was trying to cover up the extent of the damage and that the leak had restarted.
"Just today I received news that the oil had started leaking again this afternoon after it had stopped Thursday," Ahmed El-Droubi, a biologist with the Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association, told the Associated Press on Monday.
"The northern islands protected area is very heavily impacted," said El-Droubi. "This area is very important because it is the last pristine spot, there is a lot of sea life there that will be harmed … there are dead birds and dead sea turtles scattered across the island covered in oil."
Government spokesman Magdy Rady told the state news agency Monday that the spill was "limited" and has now largely been contained.
Last weekend, patches of oil appeared along an estimated 30 km of Egypt’s Red Sea shoreline, including Hurghada and El Gouna, threatening one of Egypt’s main diving destinations and a pivotal source of tourism revenue.
During a joint meeting Tuesday between the health, tourism, culture and media committees of the People’s Assembly, Fahmy also called for creating a fund to ensure the protection of resorts against damages caused by similar leakages in the future.
“Everything will return back to normal very soon,” Fahmy said after the meeting.
Media reports and officials in both the ministry and the Red Sea governorate suggest that the clean-up process has come to an end and that hotels in the tourist hotspot have resumed their daily beach activities.
When large quantities of oil were spotted along the shoreline in areas around Hurghada and El Gouna, tourists wary of the long-term effects of the spill reportedly canceled their reservations, posing a major blow to one of Egypt’s main sources of national revenue.
According to a press release issued by the ministry of petroleum Tuesday, there are four scenarios behind the recent oil leak currently under investigation by a special committee tasked with finding the source of the spill.
The leak could have been caused by one of the off-shore pumping platforms or it could have occurred as a result of the periodic waste-dumping by passing boats, according to the committee.
Officials are also investigating the possibility that oil, previously residued on rocks, dissolved into sea water under high temperatures.
The fourth scenario involves equipment from oil platforms being stolen and transported, which, according to environmental experts on the investigation committee, could cause large quantities of oil to appear.
Meanwhile, four ships have been located around the oil platforms in the Red Sea to ensure future spills do not reach Hurghada’s shoreline. Airplanes will also be monitoring existing platforms for additional observation, according to the ministry’s press release.
“The extent of the polluted area has been exaggerated. The leak only occurred in a small area, maybe 30 or 40 barrels [worth of oil appeared],” an official at the petroleum ministry, who preferred to remain anonymous because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, told Daily News Egypt.