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Russia Declares State of Emergency After Oil Spill

Newser — Rob Quinn

A massive oil spill in Siberia is being called "Russia's Exxon Valdez"—and Vladimir Putin is furious with a company that allegedly failed to report it. The Russian leader declared a state of emergency in the region Wednesday and slammed executives at Norilsk Nickel, the BBC reports.

Officials said Krasnoyarsk governor Alexander Uss only found out about the spill on Sunday, two days after it happened, when "alarming information appeared in social media." Authorities say around 20,000 tons of diesel oil from a power plant leaked into the Ambarnaya River, north of the Arctic Circle, turning long stretches of it red.

"Why did government agencies only find out about this two days after the fact? Are we going to learn about emergency situations from social media? Are you quite healthy over there?" Putin told the head of the Norilsk subsidiary that operates the power plant, per the Guardian.

The environmental disaster was apparently caused by another one that is unfolding more slowly. Climate change is causing the permafrost to melt, which caused the collapse of pillars supporting the fuel tank.

Authorities say the cleanup will be an extremely long and expensive process, since the river is too shallow for barges and there are no nearby roads.

Russia's environment minister says he has ruled out burning the fuel, since "such a huge bonfire over such an area" would be extremely risky.

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