Dalian, China – Holidaymakers in northeastern China have been seen swimming in the sea near the site of a huge oil spill, which could have serious consequences for their health, Greenpeace said Sunday.
‘We went to two different popular beaches and we saw hundreds of people there,’ said Hans Xu, a campaigner for the environmental group, who is currently in the northeastern city of Dalian, where the spill occurred.
‘A lot of the swimmers are probably not aware of the dangers,’ he said, adding more than a dozen people were seen in the water.
The spill happened nearly 10 days ago after two pipelines exploded at an oil storage depot in Dalian, a port city in Liaoning province, triggering a blaze that burned for days. About 1,500 tonnes of oil poured into the Yellow Sea. Official estimates say the spill covers over 435 square kilometres (170 square miles) of water, but Chinese media reports have said the slick has spread to 946 square kilometres.
The official China News Service said Sunday that more than 1,300 specialised personnel were working to clean up the spill and a further 5,300 ordinary citizens had been mobilised to help out. Around 40 oil-skimming vessels were also working day-in and day-out as well as over 1,000 fishing boats.
Xu said Greenpeace had erected signs on the beaches warning people not to swim in the sea, as crude oil contains compounds that do not dissolve easily in water and are known to be carcinogenic. Some workers and fishermen involved in clean-up work have also been scooping up the oil with their bare hands, and many have not been provided with masks, Greenpeace said.