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Australia Oil Spill Spreads Contamination to Indonesia


Australia Oil Spill Spreads Contamination to Indonesia

Australia Oil Spill Spreads Contamination to Indonesia

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Australia's worst oil slick since the mid-1980s is now tainting Indonesian waters. Fishermen in West Timor say contaminated fish are making villagers ill.

Oil began leaking two months ago, following an accident on the West Atlas drilling platform, which lies about 200 kilometers off the coast of Western Australia.

Since then, the millions of liters of oil have poured into the water, prompting concerns for the health of endangered turtles as well as whales and dolphins.

Indonesian fishermen say the slick has killed of thousands of fish and is causing illness among villagers who have eaten tainted seafood.

Three attempts to plug the leak on the rig, which is owned by a Thailand company, have failed.

The Conservative opposition's environment spokesman Greg Hunt says the accident has been a calamity for the fishing industry and the fragile marine ecosystem.

"This is a deep ocean tragedy. It is affecting marine life," Hunt said. "There can be no doubt that that is the case and what we are hearing from reports from the fishing community both in Australia and overseas is that there are real effects on marine life."

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority says the flow of oil from the damaged well appears to be slowing. Boats have been spraying chemicals to help disperse the slick and stop it spreading.

An authority spokeswoman says the effect on wildlife had been minimal.

Environmentalists, however, worry about the long-term effects of contamination on vulnerable marine species, including flat-back turtles, dolphins and whales. They are also concerned about whether a planned expansion of the oil and gas industry in the region will be safe.

It is unclear when a fourth attempt to stop the flow of oil will take place. Engineers have been trying to cap a hole 25 centimeters wide, which lies deep beneath the seabed. The rig's owners say that plugging the leak is an "extraordinarily complex" task.

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