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Black day for Samet

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OIL SPILL
Black day for Samet

The Nation, Agencies

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Disaster area declared as authorities fight to keep oil spill away from island's tourist strip

KOH SAMET: -- Authorities yesterday feared the entire tourist island of Koh Samet in Rayong would be affected by Saturday's oil spill.


The island's Ao Phrao (Phrao Bay) is being closed for three days to permit a cleanup of spilled crude oil that has washed ashore.

Koh Samet was yesterday declared a marine disaster area, according to Rayong Governor Wichit Chatphaisit, who said action was being taken to prevent the leaked oil from spreading from Ao Phrao to other beaches on the island.

"The spill is definitely having an impact on the environment, but we have not detected any deaths of marine animals yet," he said.

It is expected to take about 15 days to restore the polluted beach of Ao Phrao, according to Sumet Saithong, chief of the Laem Ya Samet Islands National Park.

He said about 500 officials from the Pollution Control Department; Depart-ment of Environment Quality Promotion; petrochemical firm PTT Global Chemical, from whose pipeline the oil leaked; and those sent by the Rayong provincial governor, were cleaning up oil that had washed ashore.

Film from the floating crude oil has spread over eight kilometres west of Ao Phrao, on the western coast of Samet, and about 400 metres into the bay, he said.

The Stop Global Warming Association yesterday asked the government to demand compensation from PTT for allegedly causing damage to the country's natural resources and the environment. It would take legal action by itself if the government failed to do so, the association's representatives said.

Koh Samet, about 3 kilometres off the coast of Rayong, is a popular getaway for Bangkok residents. The island attracts about 1 million visitors a year, mostly on weekends. Known for its quieter scene and serene beach, Ao Phrao is now blackened by waves of oil lapping on the shore.

The leak reportedly struck an offshore pipeline belonging to PTT Global Chemical on Saturday morning, releasing about 50,000 litres of crude oil into the Gulf of Thailand. The pipe is about 20 kilometres off Rayong's coast. Authorities had contained much of the oil spill by Saturday evening, although portions evaded the floating barriers used to try to contain the spill.

"We closed off Ao Phrao to tourists so authorities can clean up the water and beach," said Chuchart Oncharoen, the Tourism Authority of Thailand's director for Rayong. "Ao Phrao is on the west coast of Samet, but most of the island's hotels and resorts are on the east coast, which has not been affected by the spill," he said.

Immediate priority

Rayong Deputy Governor Supeepat Chongpanish said the immediate priority was to clean the oil from the sand and water, and to make sure the spill didn't spread to other beaches. "This is a very beautiful, white, sandy beach, so we want to clean up the spill as soon as possible," he said.

Authorities said it would take some time to assess the environmental damage caused by the spill. However, the tourism industry has already felt some impact.

"The black waves have been rolling in since [sunday] night and by [yesterday] morning the beach was all tainted with oil," Kevin Wikul, the assistant front-desk officer of a resort in Ao Phrao, was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. "We have advised our guests against going near the beach and some have asked for early check-outs."

Chuchart, TAT's Rayong director, said: "We've had some hotel cancellations on Samet. Whether this will have a long-term impact on the island depends on how quickly PTT cleans the mess up."

PTT Global Chemical president Bowon Vongsin-udom said yesterday the company would eliminate the oil slicks as soon as possible.

According to the company, hundreds of soldiers are helping in the effort to remove oil from the beach. However, it would take some time before oil slicks on the sand and between stones could be removed, it said.

Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapong-pisal said the ministry had set up a fact-finding committee headed by PTTGC chairman Prasert Bunsumpun to determine the cause of the oil leak. He said it was the fourth oil spill to have hit Thailand, and the largest in terms of the amount spilled.

Prasert expressed regret over the incident, adding that the company would determine the cause as soon as possible.

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-- The Nation 2013-07-30

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RAYONG
Over 100-rai of coral at risk

Pongphon Sarnsamak
The Nation
Koh Samet, Rayong

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Samet'S Phrao Beach covered in crude oil; But Reef off Koh Kudee could be damaged

KOH SAMET: -- More than 100 rai of the staghorn and giant clam coral reef surrounding Kudee Island, 6 kilometres to the east of Samet Island, is now threatened by the oil spill if efforts to contain the leak fail.


Theerapat Prayoonsith, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), said he had instructed officials to set up a 24-hour surveillance centre to monitor the spread of the oil in the Gulf of Thailand.

"We are monitoring three key spots around Samet. We are worried that hundreds of rai of the most precious coral reef - which is one of the top tourist attractions - will be severely damaged if the control measures put in place by PTT Global Chemical [PTTGC] fail," he told The Nation.

Sumet Saithong, chief of the Khao Laem Ya-Mu Koh Samet National Park, said it would be almost impossible to revive the coral reef if the spread is not contained.

"That would be the worst incident for us," he said.

10 tonnes of oil recovered

As of 8pm on Sunday, oil had covered up to 400 metres of the white sand beach at Phrao Bay on the west of Koh Samet.

Sumet said he told officials to close the beach for three days so it can be cleaned and that he had informed PTTGC of the incident. He said little could be done to protect the beach. Meanwhile, a PTTGC representative said it would take at least 15 days to clean up the area.

Early yesterday, thousands of volunteers and navy officials got together to help mop up the spill. PTTGC representatives joined them in the afternoon.

Rayong Governor Wichit Chatphaisit said pumps, buckets and shovels were used to suck oil out of the sand and the debris stored in plastic bags.

PTTGC environment officer Surajit Satapornwalairat said the recovered oil would be stored first in tanks before being eliminated at the Siam City Cement factory in Saraburi.

As of yesterday evening, about 10 tonnes of oil had been recovered from the beach.

Meanwhile, Wichit said he was still worried about the containment mission at Phrao beach because southeasterly winds could blow the crude oil surrounding Phrao Bay into the sea, making it difficult to control the spread to other areas.

Separately, Sumet said the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry had sent a team of environmental and pollution experts to estimate the damage done to the marine ecosystem around the island.



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-- The Nation 2013-07-30

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Koh Samet - Thaivisa member image

samet.jpg

Nah, minor issue, storm in a tea cup won't have any effect on tourism record numbers will be flocking.whistling.gif

Yes sarcasm and having a dig at TAT, not Thailand.

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All about the beach and little about the marine life.

Seals get a little pissed when you try and nail a deck chair to their back.wink.png

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there will be a massive claim from. hotel, motel, inn, resort, tourist agency, boating, jetski, restaurant, entertainment centre, katoey on beachroad bla. bla bla... on lost of income.. what a mass ...50 tonnes of crude oil..really i dont think so

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Just heard part of an IN Channel report and it seemed to be made clear that all the official statements are far too optimistic so clean up and beach closure time will be much longer than the " few days " or " 3 days " being thrown around.

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Let's hope they get it under control.

Visiter numbers would plummet.

Everything on the island would triple in cost to make up for the lost revenue, yes sir.

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They are also worried that it might reach Pattaya Beach and the impact it will have on the oil slik. Plans are being made to protect the oil slik.....

Haha, yeah, like you'd hardly notice if it did make it there. But one good thing would come out of it, the jet-ski mafia won't be able to rip off the unwary for a bit.

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Never nice to see, but at least the government has plenty of funds in the kitty to spend on the clean-up... I mean they've been charging foreigners 400 baht to get into the 'national marine park' for how many years?

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This is very sad , we have in my country faced similar problems .... just hope things will get to normal .... I dont go to Samet but been there long time ago and enjoyed it until all Bangkok was partying on the island and I lost interest.

Cleaning beaches and rocks is very tough job. Lets hope this can be avoided in the future.

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