Yemen races to avert environmental disaster as Houthi-damaged ship leaks oil in Red Sea

  • World
  • Tuesday, 27 Feb 2024

ADEN, Yemen, Feb. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Yemeni government announced Monday that it is scrambling to avert an environmental disaster in the Red Sea after the Houthi group attacked a cargo ship last week and caused it to take on water and leak oil.

Speaking at a press conference in Aden, Yemeni Minister of Water and Environment Tawfiq Al-Sharjabi warned that "the situation is deeply worrying, and authorities are taking every measure to deal with possible disasters as the 171-meter bulk carrier ship, identified as 'the Rubymar,' began leaking oil."

Al-Sharjabi said the British-owned, Belize-flagged bulk carrier was carrying thousands of tons of fertilizer and oil when it was damaged by two guided missiles launched by the Houthis on Feb. 18 while sailing through the Red Sea.

Its crew had been safely evacuated to Djibouti. However, the stricken vessel remains adrift with its dangerous cargo.

"We are racing against time to avoid an imminent environmental catastrophe in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden," he said.

The minister mentioned that the Yemeni government on Saturday called on the international community to help address the looming environmental crisis, and directed the formation of an emergency committee to deal with a potential spillage.

The Houthis claimed they believed the ship was carrying weapons bound for Israel. However, the Yemeni government refuted the claim, saying the assault would harm Yemenis and offer no assistance to the Palestinians.

The Houthis have stepped up their attacks on international shipping since mid-November last year, saying they were in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza who faced intense Israeli attacks.

The U.S.-British forces since January have responded with dozens of airstrikes on Houthi targets, including mobile missile launchers and underwater drones, but have failed to deter the group from launching more attacks.

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