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Thailand’s Rayong Province declares a state of emergency as the oil spill reaches the beach

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Thailand’s Rayong Province declares a state of emergency as the oil spill reaches the beach

Efforts since Tuesday morning have failed to prevent the oil spill from reaching the beaches of the eastern coast of the Gulf of Thailand. Yesterday the oil washed up on Mae Ramphueng beach in Rayong, an hour’s drive south of Pattaya.  

Up to 200 people patrolled the affected beach with excavators to try to scoop up the oil. Other volunteers only used their hands and plastic bags to clean up the mud.

Rayong’s governor declared a state of emergency yesterday after oil washed up along the long stretch of the popular beach, forcing restaurants and shops to close. The environmental disaster couldn’t have come at a worse time for local merchants, fisheries and hotels as they began preparing to restart the Test & Go arrivals program.

Rayong Governor Channa Iamsaeng has declared the beach on the east coast a “disaster area” and ordered the area to be closed to bathers and commercial activities.

Much of the oil remains just offshore between Mae Ramphueng Beach and nearby Koh Samet, a popular island for weekend getaways and tourists alike.

Although the Royal Thai Navy, Star Petroleum Refining’s damage control unit and pollution consultants have been in the area since Tuesday to clean up the oil spill of about 60 tons of crude oil, the efforts have not prevented the worst-case scenario – the oil reached the coast. As of Wednesday, inflatable barriers were deployed to contain the floating mud some 20 kilometres southwest of Mae Ramphueng Beach.

Satellite and surveillance images show a 47 square kilometre oil slick, much of which still threatens the coast. Wind conditions over the weekend are expected to worsen the situation in the coming days.

The local Thai branch of Greenpeace is demanding that oil company Star Petroleum Refining, which is 60% owned by US petrochemical giant Chevron, “show clear responsibility for the incident.” Star Petroleum was responsible for a similar environmental disaster in 1997.

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