All oil from a sinking tanker off Yemen has been diverted, the UN says

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New York — The transfer of more than a million barrels of oil from an aging tanker off the coast of war-torn Yemen has been completed, avoiding a major environmental disaster, the United Nations said on Friday.

In a statement, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the operation had prevented a “major environmental and humanitarian disaster.”

An international team began siphoning the oil from the wrecked vessel called SOF Safer on July 25. All the oil is now on board a new tanker called Nautica.

Before it was moved, the Safer was carrying four times the amount of oil spilled in the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska, one of the world’s worst ecological disasters. according to the UN.

International organizations and rights groups have warned for years about the possibility of a spill or explosion involving the tanker, which has not been maintained and has seawater in its engine compartment and damaged pipes.

It is anchored 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from Yemen’s Red Sea ports of Hodeida and Ras Issa, a strategic area controlled by Iran-backed Houthi rebels who are at war with the internationally recognized Yemeni government. national.

The warring sides blamed each other for blocking salvage operations to remove the oil until a UN-led operation managed to access the vessel and raise funds from international donors. .

The move marks a major milestone in a plan that the UN says now needs additional funding to transport the oil away and move the SOF more safely.

The United States welcomed the news of the success of the operation and asked other countries to contribute to the operation until the end.

“The UN urgently needs the financial support of the international community and the private sector to fill the remaining $22 million funding gap needed to complete its work and address all environmental threats remains,” said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

The tanker, a Japanese-built vessel built in the 1970s, was sold to the Yemeni government in the 1980s to pump up to 3 million barrels from oil fields in Yemen’s eastern Marib Province to store for export . The ship is 360 meters (1,181 feet) long with 34 storage tanks.

Yemen’s devastating civil war began in 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels captured the capital Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, intervened the following year to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.

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