The local authorities of the Siberian city of Norilsk announced a state of emergency after a spill of 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel leaked into the river Ambarnaya, reports The Moscow Times.
The spill was caused last week by a leaking diesel fuel tank at a power station in the industrial city of Norilsk, in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
The city of 180,000 inhabitants and large reserves of palladium is already among the most polluted in the world.
The company that operates the plant, Norilsk Nickel, is still investigating the causes of the disaster, but they have pointed out that it could be due to the thawing of the permafrost soil. A spokesperson said the tank was damaged when supporting pillars that had "held it in place for 30 years without difficulty" began to sink.
The infrastructure of the company, built on permafrost, is increasingly threatened by melting ice, due to global warming.
— The Siberian Times (@siberian_times) June 2, 2020
According to Reuters, the firm has brought in specialists from Moscow in an attempt to clear up the spill, who have sectioned off the affected part of the river to stop the oil products spreading further.
Tatyana Yegorova, spokeswoman of the company, said that it is still too early to assess the damage, but that the experts brought in expect to be able to draw off the fuel from the river in 10-14 days
WWF published satellite images of the river with enormous red spillages, and local residents posted on their social media the expanse of crimson water stretching from shore to shore.
Reuters also spoke with Russia's state fishing agency that said that the river would need decades to recover from the 20,000 tonnes of oil spill. Dmitry Klokov, a spokesman for the Rosrybolovstvo state fishing agency, described the incident as an ecological catastrophe.
This is not the first time the company has been responsible for spilling diesel fuel into the environment. In 2016, pollutants from a "filtration dam" at its plant washed into another local river, coloring it bright red.