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Chennai oil spill: Probe ordered, thousands join clean up ops

The operations by multiple agencies to clean up the Chennai shoreline, hit by the oil spill due to collision of two ships, has made tremendous progress, even as a probe has been ordered by the directorate general of shipping into the incident, the Coast Guard said on Friday.

Coast Guard’s Eastern Region Inspector General Rajan Bargotra said the January 28 incident ‘is a major accident but a minor (oil) spill that occurred in nearly 34,000 square metres on the eastern coast of the Bay of Bengal’.

“Oil spill has occurred in nearly 72 km of the eastern coast from Ennore Port to Mahabalipuram. About 12 km got affected with oil slick and about 250 metres, particularly in R K Nagar Kuppam area, was most affected,” he told reporters.

The mishap had taken place when ‘M T BW Maple’, with a flag of ‘Isle of Man”, was leaving after emptying Liquefied Petroleum Gas and M T Dawn, Kanchipuram, loaded with petroleum oil lubricant (POL), was on its way to berth at Kamarajar Port.

The official said 72 tonnes of the sludge has been cleaned up and 54 kilolitres of oil mixed with water collected through super sucker equipment.

The clean up work on a war-footing was carried out in several areas, including the Ennore shoreline, Marina and Elliots beaches by multiple agencies, including Coast Guard, along with the help of volunteers and local people.

‘Approximately 1,100 personnel braving the hot sun came forward and assisted in the removal of oil with sludge and sand mixed with sludge, sand mixed with oil and oil mixed with water,’ a Coast Guard release had said on Thursday night.

‘At present, no significant oil patches are observed seawards from Ennore to Mahabalipuram. Only sheen of oil can be seen at some places which is likely to clear off in one or two days. Tremendous progress has been made towards sludge removal,’ it had said.

“An inquiry has been ordered by DG Shipping and based on that we will be able to know the exact amount of oil spilled into the sea,” he said.

He said the coasts of Marina and Elliots beaches at Thiruvanmiyur will be cleaned up by Saturday evening and it will take at least three-four days to clear the south coast area which was affected.

“At least 10 days will be needed to clean up the Ennore Port area (where the incident had occurred),” he said.

Chennai Port Trust Chairman P Raveendran said scientists from IOC Faridabad, petroleum ministry additional secretary, joint secretary, ministry of shipping have already arrived to take stock of the situation.

He said another inquiry has been ordered under Captain Subhash Kumar to identify the cause of the mishap.

Coast Guard personnel along with the support from various government and non-government organisations continued shoreline spill clean up on a war footing.

“Coast Guard ship ‘ICGS Varad’ with integral helicopter was deployed throughout the day for spill assessment and neutralisation. However, nil traces of spill were observed at sea,” the release added.

Apart from Coast Guard, personnel from Tamil Nadu Police Coastal Security Group, pollution control board, fire and rescue department, state Highways, port trust, corporation, panchayat besides volunteers from various colleges, universities and NGOs joined the operation.

Earlier in the day, Tiruvallur District Collector, E Sundaravalli said, “Our team of officials are here and they are speeding up the work. It is assessed that around 20 tonnes of oil spill continues to be there, floating and we are working to clear it soon.”

IMAGES: Coast Guard, State revenue personnel, local volunteers and fishermen removing black oil washed ashore as a thick oily tide from the sea lapped at the coast on Thursday, a day after an oil tanker and an LPG tanker collided near Kamarajar Port in Ennore in Chennai. Photographs: PTI Photo, @indiannavy/Twitter

Source: Rediff