Korea battles to clean up oil spill

Huge oil slick from tanker hits shore near nature reserve as investigations continue.

    Koreans have struggled to clean up the worst
    oil spill in the country's history [Reuters]
    "We are scooping from pools of oil on the beach and putting them into cans or scraping the surface of the sand and putting the black crumps of sand mixed with oil into sacks."
     
    At sea, workers used containment fences, booms and skimmers in an attempt to clear up the huge slick. But the worst may be yet to come.
     
    Farms fear
     
    In the Mallipo beach area, hundreds of troops, police and residents used buckets to remove the oil from Mallipo as tides of dark sea water crashed ashore.
     

    The Hebei Spirit is owned by the
    Samsung corporation [Reuters]

    The odour could be smelled a kilometre away.
     
    However, the operation was reportedly being delayed because of a lack of pressure washers and portable tanks.
     
    "We don't have even enough buckets to carry oil," said Guk jung-Ho, a village leader in Mallipo.
     
    "Our life is totally dependent on this beach and tourists. Almost all the 140 families here are living off seafood farms and who knows what will happen to the farms?"
     
    A maritime official said workers were setting up booms to try and contain the spill and protect the farms.
     
    Six aircraft and a fleet of 86 ships, including fishing boats and vessels from coast guards and the navy, were engaged in the clean-up effort at sea.
     
    Cold winter temperatures could help slow the spread of the oil slick by freezing it, officials said.
     
    Stormy weather
     
    The barge, which was moving from a construction site off the port of Daesan, lost control after a wire linking it to a tug boat was cut due to high winds, waves and currents.
     
    The coast guard planned to question the barge's captain to find why he was sailing through the area despite the stormy weather.
     
    Heavy winds and high waves delayed containment efforts on Friday but the seas were calmer on Saturday.
     
    The spill was the country's largest, involving twice as much oil as the worst previous spill in 1995.
     
    The oil slick was a quarter of the size of the 260,000 barrels, or 11 million gallons, of that which was spilled into Alaska's Prince William Sound by the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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