UN seeks $80 million to avert ‘imminent’ Yemen oil spill

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The United Nations said Friday it is seeking nearly $80 million for an emergency operation to prevent a catastrophic oil spill in the Red Sea off war-ravaged Yemen.

The 45-year-old tanker FSO Safer, long used as a floating oil storage platform with 1.1 million barrels of crude on board, has been moored off the Yemeni port of Hodeida - which is under control of the Iran-backed Houthi militia - since 2015, without being serviced.

“The Safer is at imminent risk of a major spill, which would create a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe centered on a country already decimated by more than seven years of war,” the United Nations said in a statement.

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“International support - including funding - is needed now to implement the UN-coordinated plan to address the threat before it is too late.”

The UN said that the emergency part of the two-stage operation would see the toxic cargo pumped from the storage platform to a temporary replacement vessel at a cost of $79.6 million.

In the second phase, a replacement platform would be installed at a cost to be finalized over the coming week.

“Implementation of the plan cannot begin without donor funding,” the UN said, adding that the Netherlands will host a donor meeting.

It said “rapid donor commitments of funds” were needed to begin work by the second half of May.

“Waiting beyond then could mean delaying the start of the project by several months, leaving the timebomb ticking.”

Yemen’s Houthis already agreed a “framework for cooperation” with the United Nations on the issue last month.

The UN has said an oil spill could destroy ecosystems, shut down the fishing industry and close the lifeline port of Hodeida for six months.

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