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