중앙데일리

Foul crude covers coast, locals watch ocean tides

Thousands battle gooey slick with future at stake

Dec 11,2007
Soldiers from the South Korean army make efforts yesterday to remove crude oil from Manripo Beach after an oil tanker accident off the coast of Taean, South Chungcheong on Friday. [REUTERS]
The congealed muck of spilled oil spread over the entire coastline of the Taean Peninsula yesterday as soldiers and civilians continued to join hands to try and clean up the aftermath of a crash between a barge and an oil tanker that resulted in one of Korea’s worst man-made disasters.
Today’s ocean tide, expected to be the strongest since last Friday’s accident in the sea near South Chungcheong, could be crucial in determining whether the oil slick will spread further south to Anmyeon Island and north to Gyeonggi Bay, according to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
“If the current is stronger tomorrow, it will be difficult to predict the route of the oil and to stop it from spreading,” said Lee Jang-hoon, an official at the ministry’s disaster relief department.
An estimated 8,220-hectares of fish farms, fisheries and beaches were contaminated by the 10,500 tons of spilled oil as of yesterday.
The ministry has dispatched 18,000 soldiers, policemen and civilians, five helicopters and 103 vessels with maritime decontamination capacity to the area.
Citizens lined the beaches in vast brigades to try and stem the tide of muck threatening the livelihood of an area dependent on fishing and tourism.
Administration and Home Affairs Minister Park Myung-jae said the government would formally declare the affected four counties a disaster zone today or tomorrow.
“The government will provide 5.9 billion won [$6.4 million] to the provincial government first and then give additional subsidies, if necessary,” Park said during a visit to the Taean County Office yesterday.
The government has yet to give an estimate for the total cost of the devastation from the worst oil spill in Korean history.
Residents in Anmyeon Island and Cheonsu Bay, about 40 kilometers south of the accident site, watched all day yesterday as the southern end of the spreading strip of oil approached.
“If the oil spreads to our water, the residents will do whatever it takes to prevent contamination,” said Ra Myung-hwa, 60, who has operated a fish farm in Anmyeon Island for 40 years.

A fisherman yesterday laments at seeing his oyster farm coated by crude oil in the aftermath of Friday’s tanker spill. By Kim Tae-seong
On the island, fish farms raise oysters and sea cucumbers that account for 35 percent of all fish farms in Taean County, according to the county government.
“This region has the cleanest water near the Taean Peninsula,” said fisherman Shin Chang-seon, 52, yesterday. “I have not seen the oil strip yet but I think tomorrow will be a crucial day.”
Cheonsu Bay, which is home to some four million migrant birds from 300 species, was also in a state of emergency. Fishermen adjacent to the bay earn their living by growing oysters, clams and abalone.
The swath of oil yesterday also was approaching Geoa Island, seven to eight kilometers from the bay. “I hope today would not be the last day that we collect clams in the bay,” said Oh Yong-jeop, a local politician in Hwangdori Town near the bay.
Meanwhile, “Hebei Spirit,” the Hong Kong-registered oil tanker that was rammed by a barge causing the spill, is expected to sail to Daesan Port, about 40 kilometers from the accident site, as early as tomorrow afternoon, according to the Maritime Ministry.
A barge being pulled by a Samsung Heavy Industries tugboat broke loose early Friday, slamming into the tanker in the Yellow Sea about 15 kilometers, or nine miles, off the west coast near Taean. Experts yesterday started covering the holes in the oil tanker with steel panels. The spill was halted Sunday morning.
According to the ministry, the oil tanker will be able to sail without assistance.


By Shin Jin-ho JoongAng Ilbo/ Kim Soe-jung Staff Reporter [soejung@joongang.co.kr]


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