Philippine oil spill 'a calamity'

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has said that an oil spill caused by a sunken tanker is a national calamity.

Mrs Arroyo made the comments two weeks after the tanker went down, amid delays to clean-up and containment operations.

A salvage ship sent to assess the state of the vessel had developed problems and would be delayed, officials said.

The spill, near the central Philippines island of Guimaras, has affected hundreds of kilometres of coastline and threatens rich fishing grounds.

Oily sludge and dead wildlife have been washing up on beaches, with reefs, marine reserves and the tourist industry all affected.

The pollution is also causing health problems to residents and health officials say one man died on Wednesday after breathing toxic fumes from the spill.

Four more people have been hospitalised with breathing problems, the French news agency AFP reported.

Feather and hair appeal

Mrs Arroyo, who is due to visit Guimaras on Saturday, spoke about the spill on state television.

"I am declaring the Guimaras oil spill a national calamity that demands the co-operation and solidarity of all Filipinos," she said.

She called upon tanker operator Petron Corp to accelerate the clean-up and to address environmental and health issues resulting from it.

She also appealed to Filipinos to contribute feathers and human hair to act as filters for the sludge on beaches in the affected regions.

The tanker, the Solar 1, was carrying around two million litres of oil when it sank in heavy seas off Guimaras on 11 August.

One of its 10 compartments has leaked oil, but officials say further leaks may be occurring from other compartments.

Officials are now looking at whether it would be better to refloat the vessel or try to suck out the remaining fuel.

A Japanese salvage ship, which could provide images of the tanker on the ocean floor, will not now arrive until Tuesday, officials said.

25/08/2006

Bron : BBC News

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