'The oil keeps coming'
Japan coastal residents fight spill with spades, ladles
January 9, 1996
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EST (2200 GMT)
MIKUNI, Japan (CNN) -- Oil from a sunken Russian tanker
continued to spill into the Sea of Japan Thursday as local
residents used ladles, buckets and oil removal trucks to
cleanse their shores of the
It seemed a futile effort as high winds, which had hampered
cleanup operations earlier this week, kicked up again,
sending new oil slicks ashore along the once-picturesque
western coastline of Japan's main island of Honshu.
"We have a long way to go," said Mikuni official Tadatoshi
Kadoe. "We're working hard to clean up but the oil keeps
The tanker was hauling some 19,000 tons (133,000 barrels) of
fuel oil when it sank in stormy seas on January 2. The 31
crew members were rescued, but the captain is still missing.
The spill threatened 285 miles of coastline along the Sea of
Japan including some of the countries most fertile fishing
areas as well as small ports and tourist resorts.
In Mikuni, a fishing village 330 km (200 miles) west of
Tokyo, local residents and officials were trying to save
their livelihood from the oily sludge endangering some of
Japan's best seaweed-producing and fishing grounds. It was
tough work, especially with the majority of it still being
done by hand.
"My back and the rest of my body are already hurting. No one
knows how long this will take," said one woman who was among
about a thousand people cleaning the shores by hand.
"We're trying our best. There's nothing else we can
do," said another woman who covered her face with a cloth
mask to avoid fumes from the errant oil.
Authorities are also trying to help, but to little avail.
Maritime Safety Agency vessels and helicopters are still
trying to dilute the spill at sea. The Russians, also,
reportedly have sent a ship to help.
For many local residents the help may be too little, too
late. Most agree this year's crop of seaweed is ruined, and
fishing will be hurt.
"All I can do is cry," said one woman in Mikuni. "If help had
come earlier a lot could have been saved."
"This couldn't have happened at a worse time," said a local
man. "It's harvest season for seaweed and shellfish. They're
all dead now."
Dead birds were washing ashore along some parts of the
coastline and others weakened by the spill were rescued.
"We are getting more and more reports of dead birds," an
official with the Maritime Safety Agency said.
But, with authorities uncertain of just how much oil has
leaked, or where it will end up, no one is venturing a guess
as to the final extent of the damage.
Tokyo Bureau Chief John Lewis contributed to this report.
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