By Pongphon Sarnsamak
More than 100 rai of the staghorn and giant clam coral reef surrounding Kudee Island, 6 kilometres to the east of Samet Island, is now threatened by the oil spill if efforts to contain the leak fail.
Theerapat Prayoonsith, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), said he had instructed officials to set up a 24-hour surveillance centre to monitor the spread of the oil in the Gulf of Thailand.
“We are monitoring three key spots around Samet. We are worried that hundreds of rai of the most precious coral reef – which is one of the top tourist attractions – will be severely damaged if the control measures put in place by PTT Global Chemical [PTTGC] fail,” he told The Nation.
Sumet Saithong, chief of the Khao Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samet National Park, said it would be almost impossible to revive the coral reef if the spread is not contained.
“That would be the worst incident for us,” he said.
10 tonnes of oil recovered
As of 8pm on Sunday, oil had covered up to 400 metres of the white sand beach at Phrao Bay on the west of Koh Samet.
Sumet said he told officials to close the beach for three days so it can be cleaned and that he had informed PTTGC of the incident. He said little could be done to protect the beach. Meanwhile, a PTTGC representative said it would take at least 15 days to clean up the area.
Early yesterday, thousands of volunteers and navy officials got together to help mop up the spill. PTTGC representatives joined them in the afternoon.
Rayong Governor Wichit Chatphaisit said pumps, buckets and shovels were used to suck oil out of the sand and the debris stored in plastic bags.
PTTGC environment officer Surajit Satapornwalairat said the recovered oil would be stored first in tanks before being eliminated at the Siam City Cement factory in Saraburi.
As of yesterday evening, about 10 tonnes of oil had been recovered from the beach.
Meanwhile, Wichit said he was still worried about the containment mission at Phrao beach because southeasterly winds could blow the crude oil surrounding Phrao Bay into the sea, making it difficult to control the spread to other areas.
Separately, Sumet said the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry had sent a team of environmental and pollution experts to estimate the damage done to the marine ecosystem around the island.