China races to prevent oil slick spreading to open sea

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China is speeding up its clean-up of an oil spill to stop it from spreading into the open ocean, five days after pipelines exploded in Dalian, causing a lingering oil spill that has spread to tourist beaches.

The slick has reached Dalian tourist attractions: the Golden Pebble Beach and the beach of Bangchui Island. One third of Golden Pebble Beach is covered by the greasy pollution, and large amounts of oil were also found on the beach of Bangchui Island, according to the State Oceanic Administration Wednesday.

Monitoring vessels could not conduct the daily survey of the oil spill Tuesday because of rough weather. According to Monday's survey, about 366 square kilometers of ocean was affected, including 52 square kilometers that were polluted and 12 square kilometers that were classified as "severely" polluted.

Clean-up staff are competing with the time to prevent the oil from reaching the international waters.

The Maritime Affairs Administration of Liaoning Province has mobilized all staff under the age of 50 to join in the clean-up, including helping direct sea traffic and clean up the slick.

The clean-up started last Saturday. On Tuesday, Dalian officials said they have in total mobilized forty special oil-skimming vessels and about 800 fishing boats to mop up most of the slick by the weekend.

"Our priority is to collect the majority of the oil within five days to reduce the possibility of it contaminating international waters," Dai Yulin, vice mayor of Dalian City, Liaoning Province, told Xinhua Tuesday.

Further, he said maritime agencies have set up 40 monitoring stations to watch a 1,500-square-kilometer area off the city's coast.

Maritime agencies and oil companies have laid down more than 15,000 meters of oil barriers to prevent the slick from spreading while biotechnicians are using 23 tonnes of oil-eating bacteria to dissolve toxic compounds in the oil-polluted waters.

A 25-year-old firefighter, Zhang Liang, drowned Tuesday after the wave took him away when he went underwater to clean the boat pump. Another man who was thrown into the sea by the wave was rescued.

The Dalian oil reserve is at the heart of northeast China's crude oil production base and it is one of China's largest oil industry bases while Dalian Port is China's second largest port for crude oil imports.

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