Rayong shoreline hit by oil spill, area marked as disaster zone
Crude oil from the leak that an underwater pipeline sprung on Tuesday evening has reached Rayong’s Mae Ram Phueng Beach, provincial governor Channa Iamsaeng confirmed on Saturday.
The area will be marked off as a disaster zone and visitors barred from entering the water, he said, adding that the rule also applies to fishermen.
However, Channa insisted the situation was not severe but the area has been marked as a disaster zone to facilitate the clean-up operation.
Atthaphol Charoenchansa, director-general of the Pollution Control Department (PCD), said soldiers and government officials were doing their best to clean the beach and are keeping an eye out for another wave of crude oil 3 kilometres from the beach.
Fishermen in the area, however, say the situation is far worse than reported.
As of Friday, the areas most at risk were the IRPC port, Rayong’s Mae Ram Phueng and Ban Phe beaches as well as the channel linking Koh Samet’s Ao Prao beach.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa said all efforts are being made to clean the oil spill as soon as possible to reduce the impact on the environment and economy.
He pointed out that the situation will be handled as per the 2002 National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, which brings together different agencies, including the Marine Department, the Pollution Control Department and the Royal Thai Navy, to deal with the disaster.
Meanwhile, Deputy Public Health Minister Satit Pitutecha said in a Facebook post on Saturday: “We have arrived at Larn Hin Kaw at Mae Ram Phueng Beach this morning.”
He added that his ministry has sent representatives, including the Department of Health’s chief Dr Suwanchai Wattana Yingcharoenchai, to collect samples to determine the impact the spill may have on locals’ health.
A pipeline owned by Star Petroleum Refining Plc sprung a leak late on Tuesday, releasing some 50,000 litres of oil in the sea some 20 kilometres from the shores of Rayong.
The leak was reportedly brought into control a day later, though satellite images from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency showed that the oil slick ran for up to 47 kilometres.
Separately, Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate told reporters on Friday that the government has filed an official complaint seeking compensation for damages caused by the spill.
Reuters has cited the Royal Thai Navy as saying it will take up to a month to clean the affected areas.
This is not the first time that Rayong has been hit by an oil spill. In 2013, a leak from underwater pipes blackened beaches in the province, causing environmental damage that affected fishing and tourism. It took several months to clear the area.