South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun visited coastal regions hit by a massive oil spill as his government declared them special disaster areas, clearing the way for state assistance to the stricken shore.
Crude oil from a damaged tanker has been washing ashore onto beaches on the country’s western coast, wreaking havoc on fishing and seafood farm industries in six cities and counties located about 95 miles southwest of Seoul.
Roh instructed officials to make efforts to quickly recover from the disaster and assist residents over the compensation, presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-seon quoted Roh as saying at a Cabinet meeting.
The government’s move for declaring the disaster areas is aimed at “easing the pains of regions and fishermen affected by the damage, and to quickly contain the contamination,” the Government Administration and Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement.
The designation enables the central government to give financial aid to the local government to cover the cost of the clean-up, medical aid, tax cuts to residents and allow them to delay loan payments to banks, according to the ministry.
Thousands of people — including police and military personnel — were working in the spill areas to clean up after the accident, which sent 66,000 barrels (2.7 million gallons) of crude oil gushing into the ocean.
“We will make utmost efforts to ensure that the clean-up operation ends quickly,” Government Administration and Home Affairs Minister Park Myung-jae said in a televised announcement.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry has set up a task force to draw international cooperation in cleaning up the ecological disaster, said Cheon.
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