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Saudi Arabia offers 9.5 million to try to avoid oil spill off Yemen

The tanker FSO Safer

Saudi Arabia has pledged to the UN to donate US$10 million (€9.5 million) to rescue an abandoned oil tanker in Yemen that threatens to cause an environmental problem in the Red Sea, the official Saudi agency said.

The oil tanker FSO Safer, anchored in the strategic port of Hodeida (west), about 150 kilometers south of the Saudi coast, contains the equivalent of just over a million barrels and is in danger of breaking up at any moment, exploding or catch fire, according to experts.

About 45 years old, the oil tanker has not been subjected to maintenance work since 2015 due to the war that hits Yemen, a country embroiled in one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world and resulting from the conflict between the government army and the Huthis rebels, who control the port of Hodeida.

A military coalition led by neighboring Saudi Arabia has intervened in the country since 2015 in support of government forces.

“The King Salman Relief and Humanitarian Aid Center offers 10 million dollars to deal with the threat of a spill in the Red Sea,” the official SPA news agency reported today.

In May, France, Britain, Germany, Qatar and other donor countries pledged $33 million to fund emergency operations, about half of the $80 million requested by the UN.

A total of $144 million is needed for the full operation, which includes the complete security of the tanker, according to the UN.

In the event of a spill, on the other hand, the international organization estimates that about 20 billion dollars (about 19 billion euros) will be needed for clean-up operations alone.

On Wednesday, the environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) Greenpeace urged Arab countries to act “before it is too late”, saying the oil tanker threatens not only “the people of Yemen and neighboring countries” but also “the fragile ecosystems in the region, including the unique biodiversity of the Red Sea”.

Otherwise, warns the NGO, it will be “one of the most dangerous ecological disasters in history”.

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