In the wake of a major fuel leak in the Russian city of Norilsk in the Arctic region Wednesday, President Vladmir Putin declared a state of emergency, reported Reuters. In a televised address to the nation, Putin also reprimanded a senior government official for gross incompetence in response to the disaster.
News agency Reuters cited a report saying that a fuel tank at a power station in the industrial city lost pressure on May 29 and leaked 20,000 tonnes of fuel and lubricants, a huge volume of which flowed into the Ambarnaya river.
Crimson-coloured water could be seen stretching from shore to shore down a river and one of its offshoots in aerial footage published by the RIA news agency this week.
At a televised government meeting to discuss the spill, Putin stated that he was shocked to know that local authorities had only learned of the incident from social media two days after it happened and scolded the region’s governor Alexander Uss during the broadcast.
“What – are we to learn about emergency situations from social networks? Are you alright healthwise over there?” Putin was quoted as saying, waving his hand across his eyes.
Reuters cited the state environment watchdog as saying that 15,000 tonnes of oil products had seeped into the river system with another 6,000 into the subsoil. The state fisheries agency says the river will need decades to recover.
Putin said he supported a proposal to declare a national state of emergency in the area as it would help the clean-up.
Norilsk, a remote city of 180,000 situated 300 km (190 miles) inside the Arctic Circle, is built around Norilsk Nickel, the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer.
The company informed Reuters that it is doing all it can to clear up the spill and it has brought in specialists from Moscow who have sectioned off the affected part of the river to stop the oil products spreading further.
(With inputs from Reuters)