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Kuwait desert oil spill sparks 'state of emergency': company

— Kuwait City (AFP)

The Kuwait Oil Company declared a "state of emergency" Monday over an oil spill on land, in an incident decried by environmental activists as a "recurring problem" in the energy-rich Gulf state.

The emergency was sparked by an "oil leak in the west of the country", the state-owned company said in a statement, as video posted by Kuwaiti media showed a gushing pipe surrounded by a large slick of oil.

"No injuries have occurred as a result of the leak and production has not been affected," company spokesman Qusai Al-Amer was quoted as saying, adding that no toxic fumes had been reported.

The leak "occurred on land but not in a residential area", he later told AFP.

Teams have been dispatched to determine the source of the leak and contain the incident, Al-Amer said, declining to give the exact location or the extent of the spill.

Kuwait's Al Rai newspaper released a video on Twitter showing a pipe spewing large amounts of oil onto barren land. AFP could not independently verify the footage.

Kuwait is a major oil-producing country where nearly 90 percent of government revenues come from oil.

The key member within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is currently producing about 2.7 million barrels per day.

The Kuwait Oil Company has previously reported oil leaks in its fields in 2020 and 2016.

Kuwait had two oil slicks off its shores in August 2017, including one that was 1.6 kilometres (one mile) long. Experts said the other spill, close to a joint Saudi-Kuwaiti oil field, may have released up to 35,000 barrels of crude.

- 'Oil pollution' -

Kuwaiti environmental activist Khalid Al-Hajire said the extent of damage from Monday's oil leak remains largely unclear but decried non-compliance with environmental protocol.

"The oil pollution we constantly see in the air, land and sea proves that the oil industry is not sufficiently serious when it comes to protecting the environment," said Al-Hajire who is the chairman of the Green Line Environmental Group, a non-governmental organisation.

"We are facing a recurring problem due to leniency and non-compliance with environmental and safety standards," he told AFP, criticising Kuwait's Environment Public Authority for "not dealing firmly with oil sector".

Kuwaiti oil expert AbdulSamee Bahbahani said the leak appears to stem from an abandoned oil well, citing images circulating on social media networks.

"I think the well was closed improperly, which led to erosion of the pipes and the cement cover, as well as an increase in pressure," he said, explaining the reason for the oil gush and warning that a spark could ignite a fire.

In 1991, during the first Gulf War, retreating Iraqi forces set fire to hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells in blazes that took months to extinguish.

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