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Hong Kong Battling Environmental Crisis

A volunteer collects the congealed palm oil which has been blanketing the shores of Hong Kong's Lamma Island, Aug. 8, 2017.

Cleanup crews are working furiously to remove large floating mounds of congealed palm oil that have washed ashore Hong Kong's beaches following a huge spillage at sea.

Authorities have closed 13 beaches in the Chinese territory since Sunday, when the palm oil, which resembles snow or Styrofoam, was first spotted.

The man-made disaster occurred Thursday when two ships collided in the Pear River Delta estuary in southern China, sending 1,000 tons of palm oil into the water. But Hong Kong Environment Undersecretary Tse Chin-wan says the mainland did not immediately inform the territory.

Cleanup crews have collected dozens of tons of palm oil from the beaches, while simultaneously dealing with a foul smell from the congealed palm oil and searing temperatures reaching 33 degrees Celsius.

Concern is rising that the spilled palm oil could create an algae bloom that could choke off oxygen from fish and other marine life.