Oceans in distress

Published: Saturday 15 January 2005

China is battling a massive oil spill, one of the worst in its history, following the collision between a German and a Panamanian ship in the South China Sea, near the Pearl River. The German ship, which was headed to the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen when the accident occurred, was carrying crude oil that leaked into the sea. The spill has now spread over a 16 kilometres long and 200 metres wide area. The clean up effort is being obstructed by strong winds and high seas and is expected to go on for many more days. This area is home to the white sea dolphin, one of the most endangered marine creatures in the world. It also houses 300 fish species.

Another huge oil spill occurred when a Malaysian vessel carrying 1.8 million litres of bunker fuel and 80,000 litres of diesel fuel broke apart in a storm off the coast of an Alaska island. Nearly 530,000 litres of fuel poured into the sea. The area is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and houses several endangered marine animals, sea birds and fish, including the Steller sea lions and two rare species of sea ducks. Rescue operations were delayed by four days due to bad weather. Six people died in an initial rescue attempt using a helicopter. A report on December 21, 2004, predicted further danger to the broken ship from hurricane-like strong winds. Rescue vessels were ordered to return from the sea.

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