China’s biggest oil spill spreads as work­ers strug­gle to fight it

Austin American-Statesman - - THURSDAY BRIEFING - By Cara Anna

BEI­JING — China’s largest re­ported oil spill emp­tied beaches along the Yel­low Sea as its size dou­bled Wed­nes­day, while cleanup ef­forts in­cluded fraz­zled work­ers with lit­tle more than rub­ber gloves.

The oil has spread over 165 square miles of wa­ter in the five days since a pipe­line at the busy northeastern port of Dalian ex­ploded, hurt­ing oil ship­ments to the rest of China. Ship­ments re­mained re­duced Wed­nes­day.

“The oil spill will pose a se­vere threat to ma­rine an­i­mals and wa­ter qual­ity and the sea birds,” Huang Yong, deputy bureau chief for the city’s Mar­itime Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion, told Dragon TV.

Fish­ing in the wa­ters around Dalian has been banned through the end of Au­gust, the state-run Xin­hua News Agency re­ported.

“I’ve been to a few bays to­day and dis­cov­ered they were al­most en­tirely cov­ered with dark oil,” said Zhong Yu with en­vi­ron­men­tal group Green­peace China, who spent the day on a boat in­spect­ing the spill. “The oil is half-solid and half liq­uid and is as sticky as as­phalt.”

State me­dia has said no more oil is leak­ing into the sea, but the to­tal amount of oil spilled isn’t yet clear. The cause of the ex­plo­sion that started the spill also re­mained un­clear.

Green­peace China re­leased pho­tos Wed­nes­day of inky beaches and of straw mats about 21 square feet in size scat­tered on the sea, meant to ab­sorb the oil.

One cleanup worker has drowned, his body coated in crude. A 25-year-old fire­fighter, Zhang Liang, died Tues­day af­ter a wave threw him from a ves­sel, Xin­hua re­ported.

“We don’t have proper oil cleanup ma­te­ri­als, so our work­ers are wear­ing rub­ber gloves and us­ing chop­sticks,” an of­fi­cial with the Jin­shi­tan Golden Beach Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mit­tee told the Bei­jing Youth Daily news­pa­per. “This kind of in­ef­fi­ciency means the oil will keep com­ing to shore. … This stretch of oil is re­ally dif­fi­cult to clean up in the short term.”

Jiang He

Co-work­ers bring ashore a fire­fighter who fell into a thick oil slick Tues­day in Dalian dur­ing ef­forts to bat­tle a ma­jor pipe­line spill in that Chi­nese port city.

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