Sunday, December 7, 2014

INFRASTRUCTURE COLLAPSE: Fighter Jet Crashes Near School Outside Moscow - Both Pilots Ejected And Were Taken To Hospital!



December 7, 2014 - MOSCOW, RUSSIA - A MIG-29 fighter jet crashed during a test flight in a residential area near a village school just outside Moscow. Both pilots ejected and were taken to hospital.

The jet crashed near the village of Chemodurovo, southeast of Moscow, during a test flight as the crew was returning to the Flight Testing Institute’s airbase in Ramenskoye, local officials told Tass news agency.

Emergencies Services chief Radik Asulbaev, flying in a helicopter to the crash site, transported one of the seriously injured pilots to the Sklifosovsky hospital in Moscow, officials told RIA Novosti. The other pilot was later transported to a local hospital.


MiG-29KUB (RIA Novosti/Sergey Pyatakov)

No casualties on the ground were reported. The cause of the incident is as yet uncertain.

"Something happened and the pilots were compelled to abandon the jet," said Pavel Vlassov, head of the Mikhail Gromov Flight Test Institute.


WATCH: Fighter jet crashes near school outside Moscow.





The MiG’s black box recorders were found at the crash site and are due to be analyzed by experts from the 13th research institute of Russia’s Defense Ministry, a spokesman for the ministry said.

The dual-seat MiG-29KUB fighter jet which crashed near Moscow was one of the two naval aviation jets based in Zhukovsky at RAC MiG’s advanced test flight center. - RT.



PLANETARY TREMORS: Powerful 6.8 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Off Papua New Guinea! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location map.


December 7, 2014 - PAPUA NEW GUINEA
- A 6.8 magnitude earthquake has struck in the ocean, 121km off Panguna, Papua New Guinea.

The quake hit at 2.21pm, NZT, and was 6.8km deep.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre said there was no risk of a tsunami.

It comes after an earlier quake measuring 6.0 struck underwater off east Indonesia.


USGS shakemap intensity.


The US Geological Survey said the quake hit early on Sunday, local time, with its epicentre 222 kilometres north-northwest of Samulaki in Indonesia's eastern Maluku province.

USGS said the quake's depth was measured at 117km. No tsunami warnings were posted. - Stuff.


Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the New Guinea Region and Vicinity

The Australia-Pacific plate boundary is over 4000 km long on the northern margin, from the Sunda (Java) trench in the west to the Solomon Islands in the east. The eastern section is over 2300 km long, extending west from northeast of the Australian continent and the Coral Sea until it intersects the east coast of Papua New Guinea. The boundary is dominated by the general northward subduction of the Australia plate.

Along the South Solomon trench, the Australia plate converges with the Pacific plate at a rate of approximately 95 mm/yr towards the east-northeast. Seismicity along the trench is dominantly related to subduction tectonics and large earthquakes are common: there have been 13 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded since 1900. On April 1, 2007, a M8.1 interplate megathrust earthquake occurred at the western end of the trench, generating a tsunami and killing at least 40 people. This was the third M8.1 megathrust event associated with this subduction zone in the past century; the other two occurred in 1939 and 1977.

Further east at the New Britain trench, the relative motions of several microplates surrounding the Australia-Pacific boundary, including north-south oriented seafloor spreading in the Woodlark Basin south of the Solomon Islands, maintain the general northward subduction of Australia-affiliated lithosphere beneath Pacific-affiliated lithosphere. Most of the large and great earthquakes east of New Guinea are related to this subduction; such earthquakes are particularly concentrated at the cusp of the trench south of New Ireland. 33 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900, including three shallow thrust fault M8.1 events in 1906, 1919, and 2007.


USGS plate tectonics for the region.
USGS plate tectonics for the region.

The western end of the Australia-Pacific plate boundary is perhaps the most complex portion of this boundary, extending 2000 km from Indonesia and the Banda Sea to eastern New Guinea. The boundary is dominantly convergent along an arc-continent collision segment spanning the width of New Guinea, but the regions near the edges of the impinging Australia continental margin also include relatively short segments of extensional, strike-slip and convergent deformation. The dominant convergence is accommodated by shortening and uplift across a 250-350 km-wide band of northern New Guinea, as well as by slow southward-verging subduction of the Pacific plate north of New Guinea at the New Guinea trench. Here, the Australia-Pacific plate relative velocity is approximately 110 mm/yr towards the northeast, leading to the 2-8 mm/yr uplift of the New Guinea Highlands.

Whereas the northern band of deformation is relatively diffuse east of the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border, in western New Guinea there are at least two small (less than 100,000 km²) blocks of relatively undeformed lithosphere. The westernmost of these is the Birds Head Peninsula microplate in Indonesia's West Papua province, bounded on the south by the Seram trench. The Seram trench was originally interpreted as an extreme bend in the Sunda subduction zone, but is now thought to represent a southward-verging subduction zone between Birds Head and the Banda Sea.

There have been 22 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded in the New Guinea region since 1900. The dominant earthquake mechanisms are thrust and strike slip, associated with the arc-continent collision and the relative motions between numerous local microplates. The largest earthquake in the region was a M8.2 shallow thrust fault event in the northern Papua province of Indonesia that killed 166 people in 1996.

The western portion of the northern Australia plate boundary extends approximately 4800 km from New Guinea to Sumatra and primarily separates Australia from the Eurasia plate, including the Sunda block. This portion is dominantly convergent and includes subduction at the Sunda (Java) trench, and a young arc-continent collision.

In the east, this boundary extends from the Kai Islands to Sumba along the Timor trough, offset from the Sunda trench by 250 km south of Sumba. Contrary to earlier tectonic models in which this trough was interpreted as a subduction feature continuous with the Sunda subduction zone, it is now thought to represent a subsiding deformational feature related to the collision of the Australia plate continental margin and the volcanic arc of the Eurasia plate, initiating in the last 5-8 Myr. Before collision began, the Sunda subduction zone extended eastward to at least the Kai Islands, evidenced by the presence of a northward-dipping zone of seismicity beneath Timor Leste. A more detailed examination of the seismic zone along it's eastern segment reveals a gap in intermediate depth seismicity under Timor and seismic mechanisms that indicate an eastward propagating tear in the descending slab as the negatively buoyant oceanic lithosphere detaches from positively buoyant continental lithosphere. On the surface, GPS measurements indicate that the region around Timor is currently no longer connected to the Eurasia plate, but instead is moving at nearly the same velocity as the Australia plate, another consequence of collision.

Large earthquakes in eastern Indonesia occur frequently but interplate megathrust events related to subduction are rare; this is likely due to the disconnection of the descending oceanic slab from the continental margin. There have been 9 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded from the Kai Islands to Sumba since 1900. The largest was the great Banda Sea earthquake of 1938 (M8.5) an intermediate depth thrust faulting event that did not cause significant loss of life.

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics

- USGS.


PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Magnitude 6.0 Earthquake Strikes Off Indonesian Coast! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location map.

December 7, 2014 - INDONESIA
- A 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesian coast of Yamdena Island, the US Geological Survey reports.

The quakes took place at around 10 p.m. GMT, with the epicenter 222 km (138 miles) to the northwest of Saumlaki town, located on Yamdena island. The quake happened at a depth of 117.3 km (72.9 miles).


USGS shakemap intensity.

No damage or injuries have been reported in the area. Indonesia, which comprises thousands of islands, is vulnerable to earthquakes due to its geographical location.

In 2004, a 9.2-magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia off the coast of Sumatra Island, triggering powerful tsunami waves which killed at least 220,000 people.  - Sputnik News.


Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the New Guinea Region and Vicinity

The Australia-Pacific plate boundary is over 4000 km long on the northern margin, from the Sunda (Java) trench in the west to the Solomon Islands in the east. The eastern section is over 2300 km long, extending west from northeast of the Australian continent and the Coral Sea until it intersects the east coast of Papua New Guinea. The boundary is dominated by the general northward subduction of the Australia plate.

Along the South Solomon trench, the Australia plate converges with the Pacific plate at a rate of approximately 95 mm/yr towards the east-northeast. Seismicity along the trench is dominantly related to subduction tectonics and large earthquakes are common: there have been 13 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded since 1900. On April 1, 2007, a M8.1 interplate megathrust earthquake occurred at the western end of the trench, generating a tsunami and killing at least 40 people. This was the third M8.1 megathrust event associated with this subduction zone in the past century; the other two occurred in 1939 and 1977.

Further east at the New Britain trench, the relative motions of several microplates surrounding the Australia-Pacific boundary, including north-south oriented seafloor spreading in the Woodlark Basin south of the Solomon Islands, maintain the general northward subduction of Australia-affiliated lithosphere beneath Pacific-affiliated lithosphere. Most of the large and great earthquakes east of New Guinea are related to this subduction; such earthquakes are particularly concentrated at the cusp of the trench south of New Ireland. 33 M7.5+ earthquakes have been recorded since 1900, including three shallow thrust fault M8.1 events in 1906, 1919, and 2007.

The western end of the Australia-Pacific plate boundary is perhaps the most complex portion of this boundary, extending 2000 km from Indonesia and the Banda Sea to eastern New Guinea. The boundary is dominantly convergent along an arc-continent collision segment spanning the width of New Guinea, but the regions near the edges of the impinging Australia continental margin also include relatively short segments of extensional, strike-slip and convergent deformation. The dominant convergence is accommodated by shortening and uplift across a 250-350 km-wide band of northern New Guinea, as well as by slow southward-verging subduction of the Pacific plate north of New Guinea at the New Guinea trench. Here, the Australia-Pacific plate relative velocity is approximately 110 mm/yr towards the northeast, leading to the 2-8 mm/yr uplift of the New Guinea Highlands.

Whereas the northern band of deformation is relatively diffuse east of the Indonesia-Papua New Guinea border, in western New Guinea there are at least two small (less than 100,000 km²) blocks of relatively undeformed lithosphere. The westernmost of these is the Birds Head Peninsula microplate in Indonesia's West Papua province, bounded on the south by the Seram trench. The Seram trench was originally interpreted as an extreme bend in the Sunda subduction zone, but is now thought to represent a southward-verging subduction zone between Birds Head and the Banda Sea.

There have been 22 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded in the New Guinea region since 1900. The dominant earthquake mechanisms are thrust and strike slip, associated with the arc-continent collision and the relative motions between numerous local microplates. The largest earthquake in the region was a M8.2 shallow thrust fault event in the northern Papua province of Indonesia that killed 166 people in 1996.

The western portion of the northern Australia plate boundary extends approximately 4800 km from New Guinea to Sumatra and primarily separates Australia from the Eurasia plate, including the Sunda block. This portion is dominantly convergent and includes subduction at the Sunda (Java) trench, and a young arc-continent collision.

In the east, this boundary extends from the Kai Islands to Sumba along the Timor trough, offset from the Sunda trench by 250 km south of Sumba. Contrary to earlier tectonic models in which this trough was interpreted as a subduction feature continuous with the Sunda subduction zone, it is now thought to represent a subsiding deformational feature related to the collision of the Australia plate continental margin and the volcanic arc of the Eurasia plate, initiating in the last 5-8 Myr. Before collision began, the Sunda subduction zone extended eastward to at least the Kai Islands, evidenced by the presence of a northward-dipping zone of seismicity beneath Timor Leste. A more detailed examination of the seismic zone along it's eastern segment reveals a gap in intermediate depth seismicity under Timor and seismic mechanisms that indicate an eastward propagating tear in the descending slab as the negatively buoyant oceanic lithosphere detaches from positively buoyant continental lithosphere. On the surface, GPS measurements indicate that the region around Timor is currently no longer connected to the Eurasia plate, but instead is moving at nearly the same velocity as the Australia plate, another consequence of collision.

Large earthquakes in eastern Indonesia occur frequently but interplate megathrust events related to subduction are rare; this is likely due to the disconnection of the descending oceanic slab from the continental margin. There have been 9 M7.5+ earthquakes recorded from the Kai Islands to Sumba since 1900. The largest was the great Banda Sea earthquake of 1938 (M8.5) an intermediate depth thrust faulting event that did not cause significant loss of life.

More information on regional seismicity and tectonics

- USGS.



PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Magnitude 6.0 Earthquake Shakes Costa Rica And Panama! [MAPS+TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location map.

December 7, 2014 - PANAMA
- A strong 6.0-magnitude earthquake shook Costa Rica and Panama on Saturday morning, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The quake, which occurred at a depth of 36 kilometres, struck around 18 kilometres east of Punta de Burica in Panama, about 258 kilometres southeast of San Jose, Costa Rica.

The quake caused reports of shaking across both countries, with reports of "strong" shaking toward the border region between the two Central American neighbours. The shaking extended to both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of the countries.


USGS shakemap intensity.

The quake came a week after a 5.1-magnitude quake shook the border region between Panama and Colombia.

The extent of any damage or injuries was not yet clear.  - Caribbean Journal.


Tectonic Summary - Seismotectonics of the Caribbean Region and Vicinity

Extensive diversity and complexity of tectonic regimes characterizes the perimeter of the Caribbean plate, involving no fewer than four major plates (North America, South America, Nazca, and Cocos). Inclined zones of deep earthquakes (Wadati-Benioff zones), ocean trenches, and arcs of volcanoes clearly indicate subduction of oceanic lithosphere along the Central American and Atlantic Ocean margins of the Caribbean plate, while crustal seismicity in Guatemala, northern Venezuela, and the Cayman Ridge and Cayman Trench indicate transform fault and pull-apart basin tectonics.

Along the northern margin of the Caribbean plate, the North America plate moves westwards with respect to the Caribbean plate at a velocity of approximately 20 mm/yr. Motion is accommodated along several major transform faults that extend eastward from Isla de Roatan to Haiti, including the Swan Island Fault and the Oriente Fault. These faults represent the southern and northern boundaries of the Cayman Trench. Further east, from the Dominican Republic to the Island of Barbuda, relative motion between the North America plate and the Caribbean plate becomes increasingly complex and is partially accommodated by nearly arc-parallel subduction of the North America plate beneath the Caribbean plate. This results in the formation of the deep Puerto Rico Trench and a zone of intermediate focus earthquakes (70-300 km depth) within the subducted slab. Although the Puerto Rico subduction zone is thought to be capable of generating a megathrust earthquake, there have been no such events in the past century. The last probable interplate (thrust fault) event here occurred on May 2, 1787 and was widely felt throughout the island with documented destruction across the entire northern coast, including Arecibo and San Juan. Since 1900, the two largest earthquakes to occur in this region were the August 4, 1946 M8.0 Samana earthquake in northeastern Hispaniola and the July 29, 1943 M7.6 Mona Passage earthquake, both of which were shallow thrust fault earthquakes. A significant portion of the motion between the North America plate and the Caribbean plate in this region is accommodated by a series of left-lateral strike-slip faults that bisect the island of Hispaniola, notably the Septentrional Fault in the north and the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault in the south. Activity adjacent to the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault system is best documented by the devastating January 12, 2010 M7.0 Haiti strike-slip earthquake, its associated aftershocks and a comparable earthquake in 1770.


USGS plate tectonics for the region.

Moving east and south, the plate boundary curves around Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles where the plate motion vector of the Caribbean plate relative to the North and South America plates is less oblique, resulting in active island-arc tectonics. Here, the North and South America plates subduct towards the west beneath the Caribbean plate along the Lesser Antilles Trench at rates of approximately 20 mm/yr. As a result of this subduction, there exists both intermediate focus earthquakes within the subducted plates and a chain of active volcanoes along the island arc. Although the Lesser Antilles is considered one of the most seismically active regions in the Caribbean, few of these events have been greater than M7.0 over the past century. The island of Guadeloupe was the site of one of the largest megathrust earthquakes to occur in this region on February 8, 1843, with a suggested magnitude greater than 8.0. The largest recent intermediate-depth earthquake to occur along the Lesser Antilles arc was the November 29, 2007 M7.4 Martinique earthquake northwest of Fort-De-France.

The southern Caribbean plate boundary with the South America plate strikes east-west across Trinidad and western Venezuela at a relative rate of approximately 20 mm/yr. This boundary is characterized by major transform faults, including the Central Range Fault and the Boconó-San Sebastian-El Pilar Faults, and shallow seismicity. Since 1900, the largest earthquakes to occur in this region were the October 29, 1900 M7.7 Caracas earthquake, and the July 29, 1967 M6.5 earthquake near this same region. Further to the west, a broad zone of compressive deformation trends southwestward across western Venezuela and central Columbia. The plate boundary is not well defined across northwestern South America, but deformation transitions from being dominated by Caribbean/South America convergence in the east to Nazca/South America convergence in the west. The transition zone between subduction on the eastern and western margins of the Caribbean plate is characterized by diffuse seismicity involving low- to intermediate-magnitude (Magnitude less than 6.0) earthquakes of shallow to intermediate depth.

The plate boundary offshore of Colombia is also characterized by convergence, where the Nazca plate subducts beneath South America towards the east at a rate of approximately 65 mm/yr. The January 31, 1906 M8.5 earthquake occurred on the shallowly dipping megathrust interface of this plate boundary segment. Along the western coast of Central America, the Cocos plate subducts towards the east beneath the Caribbean plate at the Middle America Trench. Convergence rates vary between 72-81 mm/yr, decreasing towards the north. This subduction results in relatively high rates of seismicity and a chain of numerous active volcanoes; intermediate-focus earthquakes occur within the subducted Cocos plate to depths of nearly 300 km. Since 1900, there have been many moderately sized intermediate-depth earthquakes in this region, including the September 7, 1915 M7.4 El Salvador and the October 5, 1950 M7.8 Costa Rica events.

The boundary between the Cocos and Nazca plates is characterized by a series of north-south trending transform faults and east-west trending spreading centers. The largest and most seismically active of these transform boundaries is the Panama Fracture Zone. The Panama Fracture Zone terminates in the south at the Galapagos rift zone and in the north at the Middle America trench, where it forms part of the Cocos-Nazca-Caribbean triple junction. Earthquakes along the Panama Fracture Zone are generally shallow, low- to intermediate in magnitude (Magnitude less than 7.2) and are characteristically right-lateral strike-slip faulting earthquakes. Since 1900, the largest earthquake to occur along the Panama Fracture Zone was the July 26, 1962 M7.2 earthquake. - USGS.



MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: "This Drought Is What We Expect To See More Of In The Future" - New Study Finds California Drought, The Worst In At Least 1,200 Years!


December 7,  2014 - CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - The last three years of drought were the most severe that California has experienced in at least 1,200 years, according to a new scientific study published Thursday.

The study provides the state with breathtaking new historical context for its low reservoirs and sinking water tables, even as California celebrated its first good soaking of the season.

Analyzing tree rings that date back to 800 A.D. -- a time when Vikings were marauding Europe and the Chinese were inventing gunpowder -- there is no three-year period when California's rainfall has been as low and its temperatures as hot as they have been from 2012 to 2014, the researchers found.

Kevin Anchukaitis collects an tree-ring sample from a 300-year old blue oak in California. 2014 image by Daniel Griffin.

"We were really surprised. We didn't expect this," said one of the study's authors, Daniel Griffin, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota's department of geography, environment and society.


Kevin Anchukaitis collects an tree-ring sample from a 300-year old blue oak in California.  © 2014, Daniel Griffin

The report, published in the journal of the American Geophysical Union, was written by researchers at Massachusetts' Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Minnesota.

The scientists measured tree rings from 278 blue oaks in central and southern California. Tree rings show the age of trees, and their width shows how wet each year was because trees grow more during wet years.

The researchers compared the information to a database of other tree ring records from longer-living trees like giant sequoias and bristlecone pines, dating back 1,200 years.

Meanwhile, the rain that California received this week provided a promising start to a winter that water managers say needs to be relentless and drenching to break the drought cycle.

'Good Beginning'

"It's a good beginning," said Art Hinojosa, chief of hydrology at the state Department of Water Resources. "But we need storm after storm after storm if we have any hope of getting out of the drought this year."

By April, he said, California needs at least eight more major storm systems like the one this week -- as well as many smaller storms -- to fill its dangerously low reservoirs and break the drought. Rain and snow this winter needs to be at least 150 percent of average for the reservoirs to fill, Hinojosa said.

Above Normal

This week's storm was the biggest to hit California in roughly two years. Many parts of the state received between 2 and 4 inches of rain, doubling or tripling their totals since July. Through Thursday night, San Jose received 3.79 inches, San Francisco 4.43 inches and Oakland 3.01 inches, bringing each city's rainfall to above-normal levels for the first time this year.

More important, several of the state's large reservoirs began to receive moderate amounts of runoff, as the parched ground became saturated. Lake Shasta gained about 6,000 acre-feet through midnight Wednesday, and Oroville Reservoir in Butte County added 17,000 acre-feet. But that new water boosted Shasta's storage by less than 1 percent, leaving it at only 23 percent full. It added 3 percent at Oroville, which is now 26 percent full, the lowest level in its history for this time of year.

The Sierra snowpack told a similar story. A week ago, it was at 24 percent of the average for this time of year. Thursday, after a week of snow, it was at 39 percent -- still far below normal.

Next Storm

But more rain and snow is on the way.

In the Bay Area, another cold front will be moving in on Friday and will hang around a couple of days, according to the National Weather Service.

"There will be rain Friday night and into Saturday and then partly clearing on Sunday," said forecaster Diana Henderson. "Then there will be a few more showers on Monday, and the next system on the horizon will come in at the end of next week."

The Weather Service issued a report late Thursday saying that because of storms brewing as far away as Hawaii, projections out to Dec. 18 show that "wetter than normal conditions are favored."

Experts emphasize that a three-year drought cannot be erased in a few days. Not only are reservoirs low, but there are huge "rainfall deficits" built up from the past three years.

San Jose normally receives 42.9 inches of rain in an average three-year period, for example. Between June 2011 and June 2014, it received just 22.8 inches, leaving the city 20 inches short. Similarly, San Francisco is 19 inches behind, Oakland 24 inches.

Overall, 94 percent of California remains in "severe drought," according to Thursday's edition of the Federal Drought Monitor, a weekly report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies.

It was the tree-ring study showing California suffering its worst drought in 1,200 years, however, that received the most attention Thursday.

The researchers took core samples, which don't harm the living trees, of oaks as old as 500 years and oak logs dating back more than 700 years, the University of Minnesota's Griffin said. And they sanded down the wood with extremely fine-grain sandpaper, magnifying the rings 40 times under a microscope and measuring them to within one one-thousandth of a millimeter.

They then compared the findings to the North American Drought Atlas, a detailed collection of other tree-ring data that goes back 1,200 years and includes measurements from ancient trees such as giant sequoias and bristlecone pines. The atlas calculates temperature and rainfall for those years by comparing the ancient tree rings with tree rings from the past 100 years, when modern records were kept.

Although there are 37 times over the past 1,200 years when there were three-year dry periods in California, no period had as little rainfall and as hot of temperatures as 2012-14, the scientists concluded.

With climate change already warming the earth, the last three years in California could become a more recurring event, they said.

"This kind of drought is what we expect to see more of in the future," said Griffin. "Maybe the future is now."

Staff writer David E. Early contributed to this report.

Read the study here.

- Mercury News.



WAR ON MOTHER NATURE: Oil Spill In Israeli Nature Preserve Causes One Of The Country's Worst Environmental Disasters - SEVEN KILOMETER Long River Of MILLIONS OF LITERS Of Crude Oil!

Oil spill at Evrona Nature Reserve. © Environmental Protection Ministry

December 7, 2014 - ISRAEL
- Millions of liters of crude oil gushed out of a breached pipeline in southern Israel early Thursday, causing what one Environmental Protection Ministry official called "one of the gravest pollution events in the country's history."

The official, Guy Samet, said there is a seven-kilometer (4.3 mile) long river of oil flowing through the Evrona Nature Reserve in southern Israel, some 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) north of Eilat.

Firefighters, police, Environmental Protection Ministry officials and oil pipeline maintenance teams were dispatched to the site of the spill, and managed to curtail the flow after about two hours.

The breach occurred during maintenance work that was part of preparations for the international airport under construction in Timna, in southern Israel. Once the leak was discovered, pipeline company officials shut the pipeline's valves - but not in time to prevent the spillage of millions of liters of oil.

The pipeline, which links Eilat to the port city of Ashkelon, opened in the 1960s to facilitate the movement of Iranian oil from the Persian Gulf to European markets. Since the rupture in Israeli-Iranian relations in 1979, it has mostly been used to move oil and oil products from Eilat to different parts of Israel.


Oil spill at Evrona Nature Reserve. © Environmental Protection Ministry

The Environmental Protection Ministry's Green Police is investigating the cause of the spill, whether it could have been prevented and how it was handled once discovered.

Eilat Police ruled out foul play as the cause of pipeline breach, saying it was likely caused by a technical malfunction from previous maintenance work.

The main road leading to Eilat, a Red Sea resort, from central Israel was closed intermittently as emergency teams contained the leak.

Evrona Nature Reserve, one of the most important reserves in the Arava, is home to a large deer population and the northernmost douma palm trees in the world.

"Crude oil flowed throughout the reserve, causing serious damage ... to flora and fauna," Samet told Israel Radio on Thursday. He estimated the spillage at millions of liters.

"Rehabilitation will take months, if not years .. This is one of the State of Israel's gravest pollution events. We are still having trouble gauging the full extent of the contamination."

There was no damage on the Jordanian side of the frontier. However, Jordanian news outlets reported that large amounts of hydrogen sulfide were detected in the air around Aqaba - and some reports said that more than 80 people were hospitalized with breathing difficulties after inhaling fumes.


Oil spill at Evrona Nature Reserve. © Environmental Protection Ministry

Shaul Goldstein, director-general of the Nature and Parks Authority, said the authority would examine the conduct of the oil pipeline company to determine whether the spill was an accident or a result of negligence.

"We must examine whether the company fulfilled the detailed guidelines about this type of oil pipeline work that were formulated with the Environmental Protection Ministry after the serious pollution cause by the leak at Nahal Zin," he said, referring to a previous ecological disaster.

Doron Nissim, director of the nature reserves and national parks in Eilat, said hundreds of acres of nature reserve were damaged by the spill. The main threat is to insects and rodents that live on or close to the surface, Nissim said, adding that the pollution has not seeped deep into the ground. He also said the nature reserve's deer population is not at risk.

Treating the pollution caused by the spill will require removing large swaths of land that are steeped in oil, which will further damage the surface, said Dr. Gilad Golub, CEO of the Environmental Services Company, a state-owned firm that deals with all the hazardous waste produced in Israel.

WATCH: Millions of liters of crude oil leak from pipeline in southern Israel.


Several hours after the spill occurred, oil pipeline company tankers began pumping oil wherever possible. "It is important to extract as much oil as possible," said Golub, "but the most heavily polluted land must be removed immediately afterward. This land must be burned."

Golub said that less polluted land should be removed as well and treated using bacteria that break down the pollutants. If that doesn't happen, the oil will seep further down into the land and rainfall will cause it to spread and contaminate other parts of the reserve.

The Evrona reserve covers some 17,000 dunams (4,200 acres) of land.

This is not the first time an Israeli nature reserve has been damaged by oil pipeline maintenance. In June 2011, the reserve at Nahal Zin in the Negev was damaged when 1.5 million liters of jet fuel leaked into the soil.  - Haaretz.