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South Korean Oil Spill Ruins Seafood Farms

Posted December. 10, 2007 03:07,   


The supertanker Hebeir Spirit was rammed by barges and leaked a huge amount of oil along the west coast of South Korea recently. Now experts say the oil spill is threatening the entire western coastal region of Korea.

According to authorities, the oil leak now stretches 2,100ha as of yesterday, devastating aquatic farms and six beach resorts in Taean County and beyond.

An official of South Chungcheong Province confirmed, “In Taean County, 82 farms are affected, covering an area of 2,100ha. The oil spill is expanding along the coast, and will damage about 250 farms 3,571ha in area. The area represents 63 percent of Taean County.”

The official also noted, “The accident will harm 63 percent of the total 445 farms of 5,647ha in the county. We are afraid the damage will be greater in the end. Right now we cannot tell how much the damage will be in terms of monetary value.”

The province is now asking the central government to declare the county as special disaster area, enabling the residents to file for various benefits.

The authorities report that 80 percent of the oil has not been cleaned up, and most of it is now gushing onto the shores with a small amount of it remaining around the accident spot in a 4.8 km radius.

They estimate 10,500kL of oil has leaked from the ship. Only 100 tons of the oil has been contained so far.

To clean up the oil, the authorities have mobilized 90 vessels, 6 airplanes and 6,000 people consisting of soldiers, law enforcement agents and civilian volunteers. The work started from 5:00 a.m. yesterday.

The barge collision left three holes on the tanker. One of them on the hull near the bow leaked oil continuously. It was sealed off yesterday morning around 7:30 a.m.

Minister Kang Moo-hyun of the Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs said, “It will take about two months to clean up the affected beach areas including Mallipo.” The barges that caused the accident drifted off their navigational route about 80 minutes prior to the collision.

Lee Jang-hoon, the ministry official in charge of the cleanup operations, explained, “We traced the navigational routes of the barges. They began to lose control when bad weather forced them off their routes. At around 5:50 a.m., they veered off their routes and sailed in an ‘S’ shape. Finally, they swerved and bumped the tanker.”