After an oil slick washed up on a sand beach in eastern Thailand on Saturday, the governor announced a state of emergency, closing down restaurants and shops in a setback for the pandemic-hit tourism economy.
An undersea pipe used to load tankers at an offshore mooring station controlled by the Star Petroleum Refining Co. is thought to have leaked 20-50 tons of oil in the Gulf of Thailand on Tuesday night.
According to the firm, the leak was stopped within hours, but efforts to prevent an oil slick from reaching the Mae Ramphueng beach in Rayong province southeast of Bangkok were ineffective, and some oil began leaking onto the sand there on Saturday morning.
A large portion of the slick is still at sea, and there are fears that it will hit Koh Samet, a popular tourist island that, like the rest of the country, is just starting to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Chemicals have been dropped by aircraft to disperse the oil, and floating booms have been deployed to trap it until it can be skimmed from the surface and removed, AP reports.
On Saturday, Rayong Governor Channa Iamsaeng declared the beach a disaster zone and ordered it closed to swimmers and commercial activity. Two backhoes dug a trench to trap the oncoming oil, while 200 navy personnel and 150 Star Petroleum employees assisted with the cleanup with equipment to absorb and skim the oil.
The beachfront area is heavily reliant on visitors. It has been hurting financially as a result of the pandemic, which has kept visitors away, and the spill will make recovery even more difficult. The pollution had an impact on the local fishing sector as well.
The spill was the second involving Star Petroleum, according to the Thai chapter of the environmental activist group Greenpeace, following an incident in 1997.
It released a statement asking that the oil firm accept full responsibility for the spill, pay for the cleaning, and provide a comprehensive study on the incident’s economic, social, and environmental effects.
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