Anger mounts in Hong Kong over mas­sive palm oil spill

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Hong Kong, China - Res­i­dents in Hong Kong des­per­ately tried to clear the coast­line of greasy lumps of palm oil on Tues­day as it con­tin­ued to wash ashore af­ter a huge spillage at sea.

Their ef­forts came as the gov­ern­ment said around 1,000 tonnes of the so­lid­i­fied oil had spilled from a cargo ship af­ter a col­li­sion with an­other ves­sel near the Pearl River es­tu­ary in southern China on Thurs­day.

It was the first time au­thor­i­ties had con­firmed how much had been spilled.

Around 200 tonnes is likely to reach Hong Kong’s shores, Tse Chin-wan, deputy en­vi­ron­ment chief told re­porters.

Thir­teen of the city’s most pop­u­lar swim­ming spots are closed af­ter white clumps of the oil started ap­pear­ing on Sun­day.

Of­fi­cial clean­ing teams have been sent to clear it from beaches and sur­round­ing wa­ters.

But crit­i­cism of the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse is mount­ing.

On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon a team of lo­cal vol­un­teers from Lamma Is­land in the south of Hong Kong braved swel­ter­ing heat and hu­mid­ity to comb one of the worst-af­fected beaches.

A sour stench hung over the area and small num­bers of dead fish were wash­ing in.

The sur­round­ing path­ways were slip­pery with oil that had melted as tem­per­a­tures hit 33°C.

“The gov­ern­ment should put in more ef­fort to clean up. I'm here be­cause no one else is do­ing it,” Tony Mok (31) told AFP.

“Ev­ery morn­ing it looks like it has snowed in Hong Kong, and ev­ery af­ter­noon it’s all melted back down un­der the sand,” said Lamma res­i­dent Robert Lock­yer, who was lead­ing the two dozen vol­un­teers.

En­vi­ron­ment cam­paigner Gary Stokes said the gov­ern­ment should have in­stalled pol­lu­tion booms - a kind of float­ing barrier - to stop the oil reach­ing the beaches.

Stokes, asia di­rec­tor for Sea Shep­herd Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety, has writ­ten to the ma­rine de­part­ment ask­ing them to in­stall the booms to guard against more oil wash­ing in.

The gov­ern­ment has re­peat­edly de­scribed the palm oil as non-toxic and ‘harm­less’ to hu­mans. “You will see that many in­stant noo­dles have palm oil in them,” Tse said on Wed­nes­day, although he ac­knowl­edged a large amount would af­fect the en­vi­ron­ment.

Stokes said the oil was haz­ardous to wildlife be­cause it at­tracts bac­te­ria and would h would re­duce the sup­ply of oxy­gen.

The ma­rine de­part­ment then dis­patched ships to try to re­cover some of the oil, Tse said. So far 50 tonnes had been gath­ered in Hong Kong and 38 tonnes in Guang­dong, Tse added.

The gov­ern­ment should put in more ef­fort to clean up. I’m here be­cause no one else is do­ing it

Tony Mok

(AFP)

A cleaner rakes palm oil residue from a beach in Hong Kong on Mon­day. Ten beaches typ­i­cally packed on a hot week­end were closed on Sun­day due to spillage from a ship col­li­sion in main­land Chi­nese wa­ters

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