Officials have closed every beach in the country following the disaster (Picture: AP/Ariel Schalit)
Israel has suffered one of the worst ecological disasters in its history after an oil spill deposited tar across almost 100 miles of coastline.
The country was forced to close all of its Mediterranean beaches on Sunday as thousands of volunteers and soldiers on loan from the army scrambled to to clean up the contaminated shores.
Several volunteers were taken to hospital yesterday after inhaling toxic fumes.
On Sunday, the ministries of interior, environmental protection and health urged the public to stay away from ‘beaches for bathing, sport and leisure, until further notice’. It added that ‘exposure to tar can risk the public’s health’.
Large globs of black tar began appearing on the country’s coast last week after a heavy storm washed tonnes of tar ashore and killing marine wildlife.
Powerful winds and high waves pummelled the coastline on Tuesday and Wednesday, washing up the petroleum by-products on beaches stretching 96 miles from Rosh Hanikra, south of Lebanon, to Ashkelon, north of Gaza.
Scientists examine the body of a dead fin whale that washed up in Nitzanim (Picture: Getty)
The coastline was covered in globs of thick black tar (Picture: Reuters)
The spill has devastated marine wildlife across the coast (Picture: AFP)
Officials are calling the spill ‘one of the most serious ecological disasters’ in the country’s history.
The Agriculture Ministry confirmed a dead young fin whale that washed up on a beach in southern Israel had died from ingesting the viscous black liquid, according to Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster.
The tar is believed to be a result of ‘dozens to hundreds of tonnes’ of oil being unloaded from a ship, according to estimates by the environmental protection ministry.
However, the the spill remains under investigation and the cause is yet to be confirmed by officials.
The spill was described as ‘one of the most serious ecological disasters’ in the country’s history (Picture: AFP)
Workers bury the dead 17-metre-long fin whale, which was washed ashore on Nitzanim beach near the city of Ashkelon (Picture: AFP)
A huge cleanup operation has been launched across almost 100 miles of the coastline (Picture: AP)
People clean tar from an oil spill in the Mediterranean sea in Gador nature reserve near Hadera (Picture: AP)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Government would allocate funds to support the mass cleanup operation tomorrow.
Environment Minister Gila Gamliel estimated the beach cleanup project will cost ‘tens of millions of shekels’.
She said: ‘We need to look to the future – this event and similar ones around the world show us how crucial it is to wean ourselves from these polluting fuels, and shift to renewable energy.’
In 2014, a crude oil spill in the Arava Desert caused extensive damage to one of the country’s delicate ecosystems.
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