Popular island beach closed by oil slick
- Published: 29/07/2013 at 02:46 PM
- Online news:
Ao Phrao was closed and tourists moved away from the popular island beach on Khao Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samet National Park after an oil slick washed ashore on Sunday night, coating the area with gooey muck.
Work crews were on Monday still trying to clean the crude oil from the sandy beach and the waters of the usually picturesque sandy beach and bay on the western part of the island.
Samet park chief Sumet Saithongsaid on Monday confirmed the beach was temporarily closed and tourists had been evacuated.
Other parts of the island have not affected by the slick, the park chief said.
The crude oil leaked from an offshore pipeline at a refinery operated by PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC) in Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong province early Saturday morning. Navy soldiers and company work gangs have been struggling to contain it, despite reporting early success.
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Chuchart Oncharoen, the tourism authority director for Rayong province, told dpa the tourist industry in the province was already feeling the heat from the slick.
"We've had some hotel cancellations on Samet,'' Mr Chuchart said. "Whether this has a long-term impact on the island depends on how quickly PTT [GC] cleans up the mess."
The photo shows Ao Phrao before it was hit by an oil slick. (Bangkok Post file photo)
What PTTGC and the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources are worrying about is the possibility of the slick being driven to the mainland coast in tambon Phae in Muang district of Rayong by winds, tides and waves.
Pornthep Butiphant, executive vice president of PTTGC, and Puchong Saritchaikul, chief of the Marine and Coastal Resources Centre's Region 1, told Inside Thailand news programme on FM97.0 that booms were deployed to contain the slick within the area of Ao Phrao bay.
Chances that the slick would to hit the popular tourist beaches in Phae were slim, Mr Puchong said, but also did not rule out the possibility.
PTTGC and at least 300 navy soldiers were Monday involved in cleaning up the damage caused by the oil slick that has polluted Ao Phrao.
The slick, which is about one millimetre thick, has affected the entire bay and the beach. PTTCG and navy personnel were rapidly deployed to the area on Sunday night. It was hoped the clean-up would be completed on Monday, Mr Pornthep said.
Mr Pornthep said the oil that washed up on the island is about one-tenth of the 50,000 litres of crude that leaked into the sea from the PTTGC pipeline feeding its refinery at Map Ta Phut industrial estate in Rayong province.
The oil slick was caused by a leak in the pipe, which was carrying crude being unloaded by an offshore tanker, about 6.50am on Saturday.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wichet Kasemthongsri, who visited the island, said the ''polluter'' must bear full responsibility for the damage, but the top priority now was to tackle the damage the oil has caused.
Samet is one of the most popular destinations for local and foreign tourists. It is about six kilometres off the mainland in tambon Phae, Rayong province.
Photo gallery by Pattanapong HIrunard and Sithikorn Wongwudthianun
Panorama photo by Sithikorn Wongwudthianun
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Writer: Bangkok Post and dpa