________________________________________________________________________ Oil spill shuts down UAE water desalination plants Copyright ) 1998 Nando.net Copyright ) 1998 Reuters DUBAI (January 13, 1998 12:19 p.m. EST http://www.nando.net) - A spreading oil slick from a sunken barge off the United Arab Emirates has forced the Gulf Arab state to close two desalination plants that provide vital drinking water, local newspapers reported on Tuesday. Fuel oil that escaped from the 11,000-ton-capacity barge after it sank in high winds on Wednesday had prompted the emirates of Sharjah and Ajman to each close a desalination plant to prevent oil seeping into the local water supply. "Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority announced tonight that it was stopping all water desalination units at the al-Liyya water and power generating plant," the official UAE news agency WAM reported late on Monday. Al-Liyya provides roughly half of the emirate's daily water consumption of 40 million gallons, newspapers said. Sharjah, with a population of around 500,000, is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, a major OPEC oil producer. Residents in parts of the emirate said their domestic water supplies had been cut off. "I went out and bought jerrycans to store water in case the water shortage hits our part of town," a Sharjah resident said. The al-Zawra desalination plant in Ajman emirate was again closed on Monday as a precaution as the slick threatened to contaminate water to the 90,000 people living in the area. The spill from the barge now threatens more than 80 km (50 miles), running from Dubai to the northern coastal tip of the UAE at Ras al Khaimah emirate. UAE officials involved in the clean-up were reported by WAM news agency as saying that the slick was now threatening a parkland beach area on the coast of Dubai emirate, the second largest UAE emirate. Dubai Petroleum Company had taken precautions after aerial surveys indicated that the oil slick was moving in the direction of Mamzar in Dubai, WAM reported. A team of 10 divers managed on Monday to seal most of the leaks from the barge, which is sitting on the bottom of the Gulf at a depth of 20 meters (66 feet), diving sources said. Heavy pools of black oil have hit local tourist beaches and resulted in the death of local marine and bird life including cormorants and sea snakes. Fishing grounds have been affected. The sunken barge was designed to carry dry cargo, not oil. UAE newspapers said the owners of the barge had been arrested, but did not give any details.
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