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Oil slick keeps Singapore beaches closed for holidays

world Updated: May 28, 2010 12:16 IST

AFP
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Singapore's most popular stretch of beaches remained shut on the first day of the city state's summer school holidays Friday as emergency crews continued their cleanup of an oil slick.

Despite the mess and the closure, residents flocked to the seaside East Coast Park for picnics, jogging and cycling, even though they could not swim or frolic on the sand.

Signs on the tree-lined park advised the public to stay away from the affected beaches, warning them that the water was "contaminated" by the slick, from an oil tanker damaged in a collision off Singapore on Tuesday.

However, the chocolate-coloured sludge that tainted the seawater and sand in parts of the park had begun to thin, witnesses said, and the strong, kerosene-like smell in the area over the past two days had dissipated.

Emergency crews continued cleaning up the beaches on Friday, shoveling oil-slickened sand into black plastic bags.

Officials estimate that some 7.2 kilometres (4.5 miles) of beach and rock bunds, or embankments, along the east coast were affected after winds and tides made containing the slick at sea difficult.

The slick came from the Malaysian-registered tanker MT Bunga Kelana 3, which was carrying nearly 62,000 tonnes of crude when it collided with the MV Waily, a bulk carrier registered in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

About 2,500 tonnes of crude leaked from a gash on the double-hulled tanker's port side, officials said. Such tankers are designed to limit spillage in case of a rupture.

Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority said most of the leaked crude had been contained at sea.
Chona Garciano, a Singaporean of Filipino descent visiting East Coast Park, said her daughter was disappointed that she could not swim.

"Since we are already here, we will just have a picnic. My daughter is quite disappointed at not being able to swim," said Garciano, a 49-year-old engineer who pitched a tent at the park with her family.
Hannah Mei, 13, a secondary school student, said she and her three friends decided to come to the park on the first day of their school holidays.

"The smell is pretty bad but not as strong when we smelled it in our school a few days ago," Mei said.

While they will not be able to enjoy the beach, "we'll still continue to cycle and play games and stay here until the evening," she added.

Khim Siong, 32, visited East Coast Park with his wife and 14-month old baby, despite reading about the oil slick.

"It didn't occur to me it was that bad," he said, adding that he and his family would nevertheless linger there.

Stuart Jay, a 49-year-old expatriate working in Singapore, was on his routine morning jog at the park.

"It isn't that uncomfortable," he said. "I'm not worried about the health effects because it's just the same as jogging in the city."

Environmentalists said they were continuing to monitor the slick.

"We did find a lot of dead crabs covered in oil... and four to five dead fish," said Anbarasi Boopal of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), who led a team that combed the beaches on Thursday.