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Thailand Oil Spil

Iridescence shines on the surface of an oil slick coating a normally idyllic beach on the Thai holiday island of Koh Samet, which has been blighted by thousands of litres of crude that spewed from a leaking pipeline into the Gulf of Thailand. Tourists have been pouring off the island, while soldiers and volunteers in white bio-hazard suits struggle to clear black oily sludge off the white sand.


About 50,000 litres of crude oil gushed into the sea on July 27 from a pipeline about 20 km (12 miles) off the coast, the fourth major oil spill in Thai history.

The pipeline operator, PTT Global Chemical, apologised and said the leak had been plugged and the clean-up operation would take another two to three days.

Environmental groups raised questions about the true extent of the disaster. "What has happened is far more serious than what PTT said on the first day. We can expect an impact on fisheries and from chemical contamination in the food chain," Ply Pirom, programme manager at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, told Reuters.

The worst-hit area was the beach at Ao Prao, or Coconut Bay, where these Thai soldiers take part in a clean-up operation.

But tourists elsewhere on the island, normally known for its sandy coast and clear sea, are also leaving.

"We're staying on another beach but we're not taking any chances. We are checking out," said Daria Volkov, a tourist from Moscow.

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