This article originally appeared on BBC
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has declared a state of emergency after 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle. The spill happened when a fuel tank at a power plant near the Siberian city of Norilsk collapsed last Friday.
The power plant’s director Vyacheslav Starostin has been taken into custody until 31 July, but not yet charged. The plant is owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, which is the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer.
The Russian Investigative Committee (SK) has launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence, as there was reportedly a two-day delay in informing the Moscow authorities about the spill.
Ground subsidence beneath the fuel storage tanks is believed to have caused the spill. Arctic permafrost has been melting in exceptionally warm weather for this time of year. President Putin expressed anger after discovering officials only learnt about the incident on Sunday.
The leaked oil drifted some 12km (7.5 miles) from the accident site, turning long stretches of the Ambarnaya river crimson red. The spill has contaminated a 350 sq km (135 sq mile) area, state media report. The state of emergency means extra forces are going to the area to assist with the clean-up operation. The accident is believed to be the second-largest in modern Russian history in terms of volume
The incident has prompted stark warnings from environmental groups, who say the scale of the spill and geography of the river means it will be difficult to clean up. Greenpeace has compared it to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. The clean-up could cost 100bn roubles (£1.2bn; $1.5bn) and take between five and 10 years.