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Thousands Gather to Help Clean Up South Korea's Worst Oil Spill

A massive clean-up operation is under way off South Korea's southwestern coast, following an oil spill from a collision between a Hong Kong-registered supertanker and a barge Friday.

Thousands of troops, police, and volunteers gathered Sunday along a 17-kilometer stretch of the coastline to scoop up as much of the oil as possible.

Residents at a popular Mallipo beach used shovels and buckets to clean up the foul-smelling crude oil. Some were complaining of headache and nausea.

The collision between the Hebei Spirit's tanker, carrying more than 260,000 tons of crude oil, and the barge left three holes in the tanker's hull, spilling more than 10,000 tons of oil into the Yellow Sea.

South Korean officials say the last of the holes was plugged early Sunday.

The country's worst-ever oil spill began washing onto the coastline Saturday, polluting beaches and threatening valuable fish farms.

The coastline is one of Asia's largest wetland areas, providing habitat for migrating birds.

Maritime Minister Kang Moo-hyun estimated it will take months to clean up the mess.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.