Massive oil spill reported off coast of South Korea

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A volunteer worker collects oil from the beach

A 146,000 ton oil tanker carrying a crane has collided with a barge named the Hebei Spirit off the coast of South Korea spilling more than 10,000 metric tons of oil (1.8 million barrels) into the sea in what is being called the country's worst oil spill. There are no reports of any injuries.

The tanker has suffered at least three large gashes on its hull and the spill has since began to wash ashore south of Seoul. Residents described the water as all black. Nearly 60 miles (100 kilometers) of shoreline are at risk of being destroyed.

"We are worried about an ecological disaster. We have set up a boom, trying to stop oil from spreading along the coast, but oil sometimes overflows it depending on the currents. If we fail to contain the spread, it is feared (it will) inflict serious damage to the coast," said spokesman for the ministry of maritime affairs and fisheries for S. Korea, Kim Jong-Sik.

He also stressed that the spill has not yet caused any damage which "will depend on how the sea currents move in coming hours. We have 40 vessels out there fighting the oil spill."

Emergency workers in the region of Taean are fighting to stop the oil slick, which is over 20km (12 miles) long.