Jerusalem: An oil spill flooded overnight a desert nature reserve in southern Israel, causing "one of the worst" ecological disasters in Israel, officials and media said Thursday.
Ran Lior, spokesperson with the ministry of environment protection, said in a statement that millions of cubic metres of crude oil spilled overnight, causing "severe damage" to the fauna and flora in the nature reserve in Evrona, according to Xinhua.
Israel Radio reported that rescue personnel and environment protection workers have managed "to gain control over the spillage".
"Evrona is home to a preserve of rare Egyptian Doum palm trees, one of the most northern areas in the world where the specific palm tree grows, and an extensive deer population," Lior said.
Initial investigation indicated that the breach happened due to an accidental strike to the Trans-Israel Pipeline near Evrona, close to the Jordan border, during maintenance work, according to Channel 2 TV news.
Guy Samet, director of the Southern Region in the ministry of environment protection, told an army radio station that the spillage was "one of the worst pollution events in Israel's history".
"Rehabilitation will take months, if not years," he added, saying that the full extent of contamination was yet to be determined.
Israel's Yent news website reported that dozens of Jordanians were hospitalised after suffering from suffocation.
The pipeline transfers crude oil from Israel's southernmost port of Eilat to the Ashkelon port on the Mediterranean coast.