Spreading oilEfforts to halt contamination from the spilled crude oil in the water near Taean, South Chungcheong, were in their fourth day yesterday but were hindered by strong winds, high tides and ill-coordinated leadership by the government. Heavy rain accompanied by strong winds hit the region yesterday, and the strongest tide since the accident occurred on Friday is expected today, increasing the possibility that the oil spill will expand beyond the Taean peninsula.
The oil slick has already blanketed the entire Taean peninsula, turning 8,200 hectares of marine farms, beaches and fisheries into an oil field. If the oil continues to contaminate Anmyeon Island and Cheonsu Bay, home to migratory birds, an irreversible environmental disaster will have occurred.
In a situation like this, we have to prevent the worst-case scenario from coming true. To do that, related government authorities have to stand steadily. The government will designate the damaged regions as disaster areas and provide special government subsidies of 6.7 billion won ($7.2 million) in addition to the 5.9 billion won that it will give the South Chungcheong provincial government for emergency recovery efforts. The government should also encourage related officials to quickly offer the necessary equipment and resources and give workers adequate instructions on decontamination.
Local residents and volunteers joined the work to clean up the oil spill but they do not have enough equipment, such as mats to absorb oil. Some of them suffered from headaches after doing the work without even wearing a mask.
While cooperation among the National Emergency Management Agency, Korea Coast Guard and local governments is desperately needed, the current situation is deplorable. They do not even have each other’s contact numbers and are busy playing the blame game. Often residents and volunteers do not know what to do because they are not properly led by related authorities.
The water near Taean County has the country’s one and only national marine park and is a rich repository of marine resources. If the ecosystem is destroyed, the loss will be incalculable. While government officials are talking about plans, the oil slick is spreading. If it plans to designate the regions as disaster areas, it must do so quickly. Several days have passed since the government announced the plan. Unify leadership so the disaster can be tackled. If volunteer workers are needed, start a massive campaign. Dispatch soldiers from nearby military camps, as well.