Samet Island, a popular destination for tourists in the Gulf of Thailand, had its serene, sandy beaches covered with black crude oil following the oil spill on Saturday. 50 tons of oil leaked into the water off Rayong province from the pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical Plc (PTTGC), a subsidiary of PTT Plc.
Despite efforts to keep the oil away from the beach, waves washed it ashore forcing the area to be closed to tourists. Waves started pushing the crude oil toward the island Sunday night. By Monday morning, the beach was covered. The area has been declared a disaster zone by officials.
The leak was discovered when crude oil was being transferred from a tanker moored offshore to the pipeline 11 miles from a refinery in Map Ta Phut, Thailand’s largest industrial estate. So far, no deaths of marine animals have been detected, but provincial Governor Wichit Chatphaisit said, “The spill is definitely having an impact on the environment.”
Officials in charge of pollution control are not only concerned about the damage caused by the oil spill, but also the effects of the chemicals used in the clean up. PTTGC has flown in oil spill management experts from Singapore to help. Thailand’s navy vessels are also joining in to help with the clean up process.
Rayong Deputy Governor Supeepat Chongpanish stated that the top priority is to get the oil off the sand and seawater, “and to make sure the spill doesn’t spread to other shores.”
Most of the Rayong province has mountains mixed in with flat plains. The area is best known for its pristine coastline of white, sandy beaches and its waterfalls. Samet Island is a favorite getaway sought after by local and international tourists.
Written by: Cynthia Collins