Thousands work to clean damaged Japanese coastline
January 14, 1997
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT)
From Correspondent May Lee
TOKYO, Japan (CNN) -- Thousands of military crews and
volunteers have been using buckets and shovels to scoop up
the thick, black oil from a Russian tanker that sank off the
western coast of Japan on January 2.
It's a grueling and back-breaking job, but for 12 days now,
they've had no choice. Nearly 4 million liters (1 million gallons) of oil spilled
into the sea, and more is slowly leaking out of the wrecked
Although the cause of the accident is still being
investigated, many suspect the ship's age is a factor. It
was built 26 years ago.
"Since the decline of the Soviet Union, there hasn't been the
money to upkeep these ships," said Josh Newell of the
environmental organization Friends of the Earth.
Ironically, two Russian oil-cleaning vessels are on their way
to Japan to help in the massive cleanup. The first is
expected to reach the area by Thursday -- not in time for
many of the hardest-hit victims of the tragedy.
Environmentalists are desperately in need of volunteers to
rescue oil-soaked birds from the blackened coastline. So far,
more than half of the 150 birds recovered have been found
The owner of the Russian tanker has apologized for the
accident and is promising compensation. On Wednesday, the
Russian ambassador to Japan will visit the area
to get a first-hand look at the damage. He is also expected
to extend official apologies for what is Japan's
second-largest oil spill ever.
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