A pipeline at a busy northeastern port in China exploded Friday night, July 16, causing China’s largest reported oil spill. The oil spill has doubled in size as of Wednesday and is said to be a severe threat to sea life and water quality.
The pipeline explosion last Friday sparked a massive fire that took over 15 hours to contain. The fire caused a second pipeline to explode, which simply fueled the fire.
The only death reported thus far is a 25-year-old firefighter, Zhang Liang, who drowned Tuesday. Another firefighter who was submerged in thick oil during an attempt to fix an underwater pump was rescued.
Beaches near Dalian are closing as oil starts to reach the shores. Officials say 165 sq miles of ocean is now polluted off the coast of China.
“The oil spill will pose a severe threat to marine animals, and water quality, and the sea birds,” Huang Yong, deputy bureau chief for Dalian, China Maritime Safety Administration said.
The cause of the blast is still not clear. The pipeline that exploded is owned by China National Petroleum Corporation, which is Asia’s biggest oil and gas producer by volume.
“Our priority is to collect the spilled oil within five days to reduce the possibility of contaminating international waters,” Dalian’s vice mayor, Dai Yulin said.
Although the amount of oil that has spilled has not yet been determined (1500 tons is the latest estimate), some officials feel that five days is an unreasonable goal that will not be met.
40 specialized oil-control boats, hundreds of fishing boats and oil-eating bacteria are being used to aid the cleanup process.
“There have been accidents in the past, but this one was more serious,” said Fu Guo, a professor at the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences. “The spill happened close to the city, so the impact on residents may be more severe.”
“The oil leak has been contained. The fire is under control. There is no new oil leaking into the sea,” Jiang Jiemin, general manager of China National Petroleum Corporation, said in a statement released Monday, July 19. He said the company would “learn from this and step up our safety measures.”
This spill is far smaller than the BP spill that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.
Check out photos of the blaze and spill on bbc.co.uk.