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Monday, December 10, 2007

South Korea's worst oil spill



Dead birds washing ashore after South Korea's worst oil spill - Link
Mallipo Beach (S. Korea) (AP): Dead birds coated in oil from South Korea's largest-ever spill are starting to wash up on the coast, activists said on Monday, warning that environmental effects from the disaster could linger for years. Cleanup efforts off the western coast have intensified every day since Friday's spill, which sent 66,000 barrels of crude oil gushing into the ocean after a tanker was struck by a wayward barge. About 8,800 people - including volunteers, local residents, civil servants, police and military personnel - were working on the region's shores today to clean up the oil. Coast Guard personnel, sailors and fishermen worked aboard 138 ships and five helicopters offshore, the Coast Guard said in a statement. Crude oil from the spill started washing ashore Saturday onto the region's picturesque beaches, about 150 km southwest of Seoul. Residents used shovels and buckets to clean up the muck. Officials said today they were considering declaring the site a "special disaster area," which would open the way for direct aid to the battered region that regularly drew millions of tourists to its natural beauty. The spill itself has already been declared a "disaster", enabling regional governments to more easily mobilise personnel, equipment and material. At Shinduri Beach, several mallard ducks could be seen hovering over the oil-coated waters neither diving for fish nor finding anywhere to land.

S Korea’s worst oil spill nears preserve -
Link
South Korean workers using skimmers and containment fences battled on Saturday to clean up the worst oil spill in the country’s history, as part of the slick hit shore near a nature preserve on the west coast. A Hong Kong-registered tanker began leaking an estimated 10,500 metric tons of crude oil on Friday after a barge carrying a crane slammed into it while the tanker was anchored off Daesan port about 110 km (70 miles) southwest of Seoul. “A part of the slick reached the shores of Taean and onto the beaches. There are about 1,200 residents helping in the clean-up,” said Cheon Myeong-cheol, a Taean coast guard official. The region is popular for its beaches and home to a national park. It is also an important rest stop for migratory birds. There has been no major impact yet on marine life where the first oil reached shore, according to the coast guard but that batch was only a small part of the entire spill. “We’re installing oil-containment fences to prevent further inflow,” said Song Myeong-dal, head of the maritime ministry’s Information and Policy Monitoring team. Heavy winds and high waves hurt oil containment efforts on Friday but seas were calmer on Saturday. The leak is about a third of the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill of crude oil onto Alaskan shores, which was the costliest on record. That clean-up alone from that disaster cost around $2.5 billion while the total costs, including fines and settlement of claims, were an estimated $9.5 billion. reuters

Volunteers struggle against S Korean oil spill -
Link
Thousands of South Korean soldiers, police and volunteers are still battling to clean the stretch of coastline affected by the biggest oil spill in the country's history. Maritime Minister Kang Moo-Hyun says the clean-up operation could last at least two months while concern grows that South Korea's maritime economy and fragile ecology is being threatened. Reports from Mallipo beach say thick black oil is still coming in, with each tide giving off an overpowering smell. Using buckets, shovels and even dustpans, the volunteers battled to save one of the country's most pristine beaches. "I felt like crying. This was such a good place for my kids," said Kim Mi-Sook, a Salvation Army volunteer from nearby Seosan county, as she scooped up oil with a dustpan. "The sand was so good, with flowers blooming here and there," she said. "The sludge was initially 50 centimetres high on the beach in some places. The waves could not get over it." About 10,500 tons of crude oil leaked into the Yellow Sea when a drifting barge holed an oil tanker on Friday. The Coast Guard said the slick has already hit 50 kilometres of coastline and more was expected to come ashore.

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