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40 tonnes of dead fish wash up on shore of Lebanon lake

An aerial picture shows dead carp fish flushed to the shores of al-Qaraoun reservoir in Lebanon's Western Beqaa District in the country's east on 29 April 2021. [JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images]
An aerial picture shows dead carp fish flushed to the shores of al-Qaraoun reservoir in Lebanon's Western Beqaa District in the country's east on 29 April 2021. [JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images]

Tonnes of dead fish have washed up on the banks of a lake on Lebanon's Litani river, engulfing a nearby village in a pungent smell, in a disaster blamed on polluted waters, Reuters reported.

Volunteers collected rotting fish carcasses near the Qaraoun lake on Lebanon's longest river, the Litani, where activists have warned for years of water pollution caused by sewage and waste.

Piles of garbage drifted in the lake near the dead fish. Swarms of flies spread near the reservoir and thousands of fish were decomposing in already dirty waters.

"This phenomenon appeared on the shore of the lake several days ago," said Ahmad Askar, a local activist. "The fish started floating up, and in abnormal quantities…It's unacceptable."

At least 40 tonnes have turned up dead in a few days, numbers which Askar and fishermen in Qaraoun described as unprecedented. They called on the Litani river authority to find the cause and go after anyone dumping wastewater into the lake.

The river authority said this week that the fish were toxic and carried a virus, urging people to avoid fishing all along the Litani due to "an aggravated disaster that threatens public health".

The pollution prompted a ban since 2018 on fishing in the reservoir, which was created in 1959 with a large dam to collect water for hydropower and irrigation.

Last month, volunteers removed clumps of sticky tar from some beaches along the Lebanese coast after an oil spill near the Israeli coast which environmentalists warned would harm marine life.

READ: Lebanon battles swarms of locusts

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