The United Nations, on Thursday, fell far short of raising the money it needs for an operation to salvage 1.1 million barrels of oil from a decaying vessel moored off Yemen’s coast and avert an environmental disaster, Reuters reports.
UN officials have been warning for years that the Red Sea and Yemen’s coastline was at risk as the Safer tanker could spill four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska.
The war in Yemen suspended maintenance operations on the Safer in 2015. The UN has warned its structural integrity has significantly deteriorated and it is at risk of exploding.
The United Nations has said the clean-up of a spill could cost $20 billion, but yet it is struggling to raise the $129 million needed to remove the oil from the Safer and transfer it to a tanker, the Nautica, the UN bought for $55 million.
Around $99 million has been raised from governments, private donors and crowd funding. A UN event, co-hosted by Britain and the Netherlands on Thursday hoped to raise the remaining $29 million needed for the emergency phase, but deputy UN spokesperson, Farhan Haq, said only $5.6 million was pledged.
An additional $19 million was required for a critical second phase, Haq said.
“It is urgent that this gap is closed to successfully implement the operation. While we appreciate the contributions received so far, there is a crucial need for the funds to allow us to complete the task that we have begun,” Haq said.
The Nautica was procured by the UN in March and set sail from China in early April. Haq has said the salvage operation could start by the end of the month.
The operation cannot be paid for by the sale of the oil because it is not clear who owns it, the UN has said.
Yemen has been mired in conflict since the Iran-aligned Houthi group ousted the government from the capital, Sana’a, in late 2014. A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in 2015 aiming to restore the government.
Peace initiatives have seen increased momentum since Riyadh and Tehran in March agreed to restore diplomatic ties severed in 2016.