Opps! China now says Bohai oil slick area five times bigger
China's State Ocean Admnistration (SOA) is now saying the oil slick in the Bohai Sea was five times bigger than the 840 square kilometers (km2) previously reported.
The spill from the oil Penglai 19-3 oilfield, which ConocoPhillips operates with China's state-run oil giant CNOOC, has polluted a total area of almost 4,250 km2 (1,650 square miles), government figures now show. On its website the SOA says 840 km2 remains worst affected by the spill, but that another 3,400 km2 have also been contaminated to a lesser degree by the oil.
The new figures will do nothing dispell the widespead suspiscion of an official cover-up by the SOA and other authorities as news of the disaster was sectet for serveral weeks before leaking out on a Chinese micro-blogging website. This has sparked a furious public response in China.
State media said the government was considering seeking compensation from ConocoPhillips over the spill. "We have made an initial plan to claim compensation from ConocoPhillips China," the business daily 21st Century Business Herald quoted an unnamed official from the State Oceanic Administration as saying. "But whether and how it will be implemented still depends on the status of plugging the leak."
CNOOC said last week the spill was "basically under control" while ConocoPhillips told reporters the leaks had been plugged. But on Wednesday the SOA said oil was still leaking into the ocean and ordered ConocoPhillips to stop operations at several rigs in the polluted area until the source of the spill was fully plugged.
"There has been oil seeping continuously into the sea for days from platforms B and C in the Penglai 19-3 oilfield and there is still a slick in the surrounding marine areas," it said in a statement. "Another spill could happen at any time, which has posed a huge threat to the oceanic ecological environment."
CNOOC has been slammed by state media and green groups over the spill, and it emerged on Tuesday that the firm was cleaning up another slick after a breakdown at a rig off the northeast coast.