[Brief] Palm oil spilled in a ship collision in Chinese waters has forced the closure of 11 popular beaches in Hong Kong, with white chunks of solidified oil drifting ashore and fouling the sand. The vessels involved in the collision have not been identified.
Debris and refuse from the Chinese mainland often clogs Hong Kong's beaches, but the palm oil is a new and unusual development. The sticky white solid reportedly has a rancid smell, and the waters just off the beaches are greasy from suspended oil. Beach cleanup crews have been working to remove it, and environmental authorities say that any remaining amounts will biodegrade without long-term harm to marine life.
Beach-goer Agnes Mercado, 49, told the Shanghai Daily that she was undeterred by the mess. "Of course I'm worried about it, but it's even worse than this on some days," she said.
The long timelag between the accident in China and the notification of Hong Kong authorities has drawn scrutiny. The collision occurred upstream in the Pearl River estuary on Thursday, but the government of Hong Kong reportedly was not informed about it until Saturday. The first wave of spilled oil arrived on Hong Kong’s shores the following day.