Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the lifting of the state of emergency in the city of Norilsk, Siberia, after 20,000 tons of fuel spilled into a river near a power station.
An environmental group described the damage as “catastrophic” after the concentration of pollutants in the water exceeded the permissible levels tens of thousands of times.
The head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Evgeniy Zinchev, said at a meeting on Wednesday, headed by Putin, that the power plant staff had originally tried to contain the leak by themselves and had not reported the emergency services to the accident for two days.
Speaking critical of the Krasnoyarsk governor, Putin said, Alexander Os and the directors of the Norilsk-Temer Energy company that runs the plant for the late response, after local authorities learned of the leakage from social media, said Putin.
The investigation commission of Russia’s highest law enforcement agency stated that a criminal investigation had been launched into 20,000 tons of diesel fuel leaking into the Norilsk River after “undue pressure” of the storage tank.
Nurinkle, the parent company of the energy company, said the storage tank establishment may have sunk due to permanent thawing, highlighting the increased risks of warming posed by arctic infrastructure and ecosystems.
North Asia, especially above the Arctic Circle in Siberia, has experienced higher than normal temperatures on the planet so far in 2020 as the region has recorded temperatures in excess of 4 °C above the normal range.
Scientists say the Arctic region is rising, on average, twice the speed of the rest of the planet as a result of global warming.
The local authorities said that the leak may take weeks to start the cleaning process as the region lacks experience in using these quantities of fuel, and the river is not navigable and there are no roads surrounding it. Additional groups of experts are being deployed from other regions after the emergency.
Norilsk has historically been among the most polluted cities in the world, according to a 2018 NASA study based on satellite data. Norilsk tops the list of the worst sulfur dioxide pollution.