CAIRO: A river barge sank on the Nile in Egypt’s south on Saturday, causing a diesel spill that threatened drinking water in the area, the official MENA news agency reported.
Almost half of the 240 tons of fuel that was being transported by the vessel, owned by the Nile Company for River Transportation, leaked into the river at the city of Aswan, nearly 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) south of Cairo.
"All measures are being taken to clean up the leakage and ensure that drinking water supplies are safe," MENA quoted Aswan governor Mustafa Al-Sayyed as saying.
The driver of the barge, Yasser Hussein, was later arrested, MENA reported, adding he had told police low water levels caused the vessel to tilt and in turn the diesel to leak.
The vessel was docked in Aswan when part of the barge sank below the surface and began spewing gasoline into the river Saturday. The leak has since been stopped.
Officials in three southern Egyptian provinces have declared a state of emergency to contain the spill and to prevent it from spreading down river.
Mohamed Mustafa, a top provincial official, said water supplies had been temporarily shut off for testing, but results proved drinking water in the region of Aswan was safe.
Mustafa said the spill would not have an impact on Nile river life.
"It’s not a big spill. There are small spots of oil and, considering the size of the Nile, it will not affect the river environment," Mustafa told MENA.
The chief of the Luxor drinking water company urged people to stockpile water in case the spill reaches the city’s water purification facilities.
Residents in Aswan reported being told to prepare for a three-day water cut.
In June, an oil spill off the Egyptian Red Sea coast of Hurghada threatened to damage marine life in the area. –Additional reporting by Daily News Egypt.