Taiwan rushes to clean up heavy oil spill near Green Island

Taipei--Authorities on Saturday are rushing to clean up heavy oil that appeared to have been illegally dumped into the waters near Taiwan's offshore Green Island, environmental officials said.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said they received reports about the oil spill along the coast of Green Island Friday night and sent personnel and experts to the site on Saturday to clean up the leak.

The heavy oil spread around 10 kilometers along Green Island's northern coast, stretching from the northwestern coast to the northeastern coast of the 15 square-kilometer island, said Hsiao Su-ping (???), head of the Green Island Inspection Office under the Coast Guard 81st Brigade.

The most heavily polluted area stretched 600 meters from the island's lighthouse in the northwest to its Zhongliao harbor, Hsiao said, adding that the sea bed around Green Island was also polluted by the oil.

He said the pollution may have come from a cruise ship, cargo ship or other large vessel, which dumped the heavy oil in the high seas before it was carried to the shores of Green Island, Hsiao said.

EPA officials said they are using satellite images and ship tracking systems to try to identify the source of the spill.

Experts are still trying to assess the extent of the pollution and have not determined what impact it will have on the area's marine life and ecology, or how long it will take to clean up the oil.

The news was first reported by the United Daily News after Green Island resident Yu Ming-hung (???) posted several photos and a video on his Facebook page Friday showing the sea bed and the northern coast of Green Island coated with thick black oil.

In his post, Yu described the oil lying on the sea bed as a "large python" and alleged that a "suspicious" vessel that he said passed through Green Island on the morning of March 9 may have dumped the oil in the waters.

Liu Chao-hao (???), a Taitung legislator of the Democratic Progressive Party, said he has requested that the EPA immediately clean up the oil spill and will closely follow the aftermath of the incident to protect the environment of Green Island.

The EPA vowed to find and punish the polluter and urged the public not to go near the polluted area during the cleanup period for their own safety and to prevent causing further damage to the environment.

Green Island, which is located off the coast of eastern Taiwan's Taitung County, has a population of 3,700 and is popular with tourists during the summer.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel