Russia struggles to clean up Arctic river fuel spill

Russia on Thursday intensified efforts to clean up a major fuel spill that environmentalists say is the worst such accident in the Arctic, as investigators made their first arrest.

A diesel reservoir collapsed at a power station outside the northern Siberian city of Norilsk on Friday, releasing 15,000 tonnes of fuel into a river and 6,000 tonnes into the soil, according to Russia’s state environmental watchdog.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered a state of emergency to deal with the disaster.

On Wednesday he furiously criticised the delay in the cleanup response, while Norilsk Nickel, the metals giant that owns the collapsed fuel reservoir through a subsidiary, insists it notified the proper agencies immediately.

Greenpeace Russia said the accident was the “first accident of such a scale in the Arctic” and comparable to the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska in 1989.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said a power station supervisor has been detained and will be charged shortly as it conducts three probes into environmental pollution and safety violations.

No information was given about the possible charges against the employee.