Cleanup Starts in Aftermath of South Korea's Biggest Oil Spill

MALLIPO BEACH, South Korea -- Thousands of people used shovels and buckets Sunday to clean up a devastating oil spill at a scenic beach on South Korea's western coast, some battling headaches and nausea from the stench.

About 7,500 volunteers, local residents, civil servants and members of the coast guard, police and military scooped up oil that began washing ashore at Mallipo beach Saturday from a damaged supertanker, the South Korean coast guard said.

Still more worked aboard 105 ships along South Korea's western coast trying to clean the sea.

The Coast Guard said late Sunday that 514 tons of oil had been collected, which would amount to about 5 percent of the total spilled. More oil was also retrieved via special absorbent mats placed on beaches, but the exact total was hard to discern.

"We collected a considerable amount of oil," said Kim Young-hwan, a coast guard official.

Tides of dark sea water started crashing ashore Saturday at Mallipo, one of South Korea's best-known beaches 150 kilometers southwest of Seoul. Seagulls turned black and fish farms were threatened along the affected coast.

The spill occurred Friday when a Hong Kong-registered supertanker was slammed by a South Korean-owned barge that came unmoored from its tugboat in rough seas about 11 kilometers off Mallipo.

The coast guard said the last of three leaks in Hebei Spirit tanker had been plugged Sunday and that the extent of affected coastline remained stable at 18 kilometers.