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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Philippine oil spill claims life
By Sarah Toms
BBC News, Manila

A Filipino man looks at oil-soaked debris on a beach on 22 August
Residents are cleaning up sludge with their hands
An oil spill in the central Philippines has claimed its first human victim, with a man dying from breathing the toxic fumes.

In the 12 days since the tanker sank, the huge slick has washed sludge onto huge areas of coastline.

The oil spill has damaged fishing grounds, and polluted dive spots and a national marine reserve.

Health officials say the man inhaled fumes of the thick, tar-like substance outside his home on Guimaras island.

Villagers say skin and breathing problems have become commonplace.

The government has hired locals for the clean-up, paying them less than $4 (2.11) a day to scoop up the sludge on the shores. Many have no masks and use their bare hands.

Huge cost

The tanker delivering 2 million litres of industrial fuel sank on 11 August, but rescue workers are still battling to contain the spill.

Map

Petron Corporation, a Philippine state-controlled oil company which chartered the tanker, said the cost of the clean-up and any losses incurred would be covered by insurance.

The Philippine coastguard says it has handed Petron a bill for nearly $2m (1.06m) to cover the initial cost.

But a spokesman has challenged the claim that Petron could be held responsible, saying the vessel was seaworthy and blaming bad weather on the accident.

Only one of the ship's 10 containers is known to have burst, emptying 200,000 litres of industrial fuel oil into the sea.

Petron said it is bringing in Japanese experts for underwater assessment of the tanker, which is in deep water beyond the reach of divers.


SEE ALSO
Philippine tanker 'leaking oil'
22 Aug 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Oil spill threatens Philippines
15 Aug 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: The Philippines
02 Aug 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: The Philippines
24 Jun 06 |  Country profiles

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