Spill from tanker wreck hits shores of Tsushima

NAGASAKI — Crude oil apparently spilled from a sunken South Korean tanker was seen washing ashore April 10 on the northwestern and eastern shores of Tsushima Island, Nagasaki Prefecture.

According to the Nagasaki Prefectural Government’s Coastal Pollution Countermeasures Headquarters, oil sludge has washed ashore in Kamitsushima and Kamiagata in the northwestern part of the island, as well as on the island’s eastern shore.

A 400-meter oil fence was installed near Waniura port in Kamitsushima to prevent more slicks from reaching the shore.

About 40 local residents started scooping up oil that had washed up on beaches, using pots and buckets brought from home.

The tanker sank off Koche Island in the Sea of Japan on April 3 after hitting a reef, causing two large oil slicks.

Near Waniura fishing port, balls of oil sludge, each dozens of centimeters in diameter, were washed ashore, emitting the pungent smell of crude oil. Strong winds from the sea April 9 also swept slicks onto coastal roads.

Three fisherman’s cooperative associations sent about 150 people in 27 vessels to help clean up oil from the surface of the sea.

Cleanup operations are continuing, involving 29 patrol boats of the Maritime Safety Agency, eight Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyers and the Transport Ministry’s spill cleanup ship Seiryumaru. The Nagasaki government also has asked for help from the Ground Self-Defense Force.

In Nishitsuya port in Kamiagata, a dozen people started cleaning up oil with ladles.

Kiyohito Abiru, 53, who inspected the damage from a fishing vessel, expressed the hopeless nature of the task. “The oil damage seems to be worse in an area farther north than here,” Abiru said. “I even saw oil slicks that were 5 meters in diameter. We cannot do anything about those slicks because there is no road access to the area.”