Oil spill responseDespite the depressing images of black oil fouling the sea, hope lives on in Taean.
Thousands of volunteers have braved the freezing winter weather to help mop up the oil washed on shore following the worst spill in Korean history.
It’s true that the accident could have been prevented with extra safety, that the uncoordinated responses of the relevant authorities has increased the environmental impact, and that the cleanup operation is not proceeding effectively because of the disorganized disator response system.
But a ray of hope shines through thanks to the volunteers who have rushed to help relieve the suffering of the residents and restore the ecosystem that is growing sick in the toxic tide. This support comes not only from the military and local government but also from companies, civic and religious organizations and even from overseas.
So far, 16,500 people have taken part in the operation, 4,000 of whom are volunteers. Internet groups have been set up and more and more people are asking how to help. The Association for Environmental Activities asked for 1,000 people, but so many applicants tried to sign up that the association made the first cut at 1,200 people.
What’s lacking, though, is a control center for effectively managing the passionate support and for providing advice on cleanup techniques and safety. People have been spotted scooping up oil with garbage bins because there aren’t enough oil sponges.
Another major concern is that the army of volunteers is getting exposed to dangerous pollutants because people don’t have adequate protection, such as masks.
Experts warn that if you breathe in flammable properties such as benzene or toluene found in crude oil for a prolonged period, you may suffer headaches and dizziness. A good portion of those working in the disaster zone have already reported these symptoms.
A control center that manages human resources should be established immediately. The government should build a team that can implement cleanup activities and safety education and organize the fieldwork. Volunteers should not be placed in harm’s way.