Philippines: Oil spill triggers nausea and dizziness among residents in affected villages
Scores of people in coastal villages in the Philippines have fallen sick after a major oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress, which was carrying 800,000 litres of industrial fuel oil when it sank off the coast of the Oriental Mindoro province last week.
Residents in several fishing villages have reported experiencing vomiting, dizziness, and cramps, while according to local media, clean-up workers deployed to Pola – one of the affected villages – have also reported feeling ill.
Since the Philippine-flagged vessel sank on February 28 in rough seas, the oil has reached the shores of a number of coastal villages, coating beaches in black sludge. Authorities have announced a state of calamity in the affected areas and imposed a ban on fishing until the extensive clean-up comes to an end.
While the fishing ban is expected to have a massive impact on the livelihoods of numerous locals in the area, concerns have also been raised over the spill tainting waters at famous diving destinations, including World War Two shipwrecks in Palawan and Apo Reef in Mindoro.
Breathing fuel oil vapours can prompt nausea and headaches, while skin contact may cause blisters and itchiness. Oil can also disrupt food chains and ecosystems by poisoning or suffocating wildlife, and also holds the potential to kill or impede the growth of corals.
Before the tanker went down, all 20 of its crew were rescued by a passing cargo ship. Authorities are currently trying to verify how much oil is still inside the vessel, and how to pump the remaining volume out.
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