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Offshore oil spill threatens beaches in eastern Thailand

BANGKOK (AP) – Thailand’s navy was helping yesterday to clean up a spill of as much as 160,000 litres of crude oil that leaked from a pipeline in the Gulf of Thailand.

The spill is near an industrial area but some of the oil could hit area beaches by tomorrow if it’s not dispersed before then, said Director-general of the Pollution Control Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Attapol Charoenchansa.

The Star Petroleum Refining Public Company said the leak occurred at about 9pm local time Tuesday at a mooring station about 20 kilometres southeast of the Map Ta Phut Industrial Estate, south of Bangkok. It was stopped shortly after midnight.

Thai Navy Spokesman Vice Admiral Pokkrong Monthatphalin said in a text message that the navy sent a surveillance plane, two ships and a helicopter to help with the clean-up.

He said the helicopter would survey the area and spray a chemical to help disperse the oil slick.

Star Petroleum estimated about 20,000 litres of oil was floating on the surface. It began work to remove the oil overnight and expected to remove all of it. It was unclear exactly how much oil had spilled in total, it said.

“We received good support from relevant government agencies and the private sector, including manpower, working boats and dispersant supplies to support the operation to complete clean the oil from the sea’s surface,” a company statement said.

An aerial view from a navy plane shows a large oil spill off the coast of Rayong, eastern Thailand. PHOTO: AP