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Thousands rally against Samsung over SKorea's worst oil spill

by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Dec 30, 2008
About 3,000 residents hit by South Korea's worst oil spill protested Tuesday outside the headquarters of the Samsung group, whose vessel was blamed for causing the leakage.

Fisherman and others rallied peacefully outside the building to demand greater compensation, displaying a funeral bier to commemorate three residents who killed themselves over the disaster.

Dozens of police buses were used to barricade the headquarters in southern Seoul and thousands of riot police, backed by two water cannons, were on standby. Police put the number of protesters at 3,200.

The accident happened when a barge carrying a construction crane broke free after a cable to one of two tugs snapped in rough seas in December 2007.

The barge owned by Samsung Heavy Industries, part of the country's biggest business group, rammed the anchored 147,000-ton supertanker Hebei Spirit.

The Hong Kong-registered ship was holed in three places and 10,900 tons of crude oil was spilt.

Scores of marine farms and miles of beaches were coated and three frustrated residents in Taean, about 110 kilometres (70 miles) southwest of Seoul, killed themselves.

Last week Samsung Heavy asked a court to limit the total compensation payable over a suit launched by some 7,500 fishermen to five billion won (3.06 million dollars).

Protesters urged Samsung to promise "unlimited" accountability and compensation. They also denounced the government for failing to conduct a proper assessment of the damages.

In June the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds estimated damage from the spill may total 573.5 billion won.

On December 10 an appeal court found Samsung was mainly to blame for the accident and confirmed prison terms passed by a local court on the South Korean tugboat skippers.

Reversing the lower court's decision, the court also jailed the tanker's Indian captain Jasprit Chawla and chief officer Syam Chetan after ruling they were negligent in minimising the spillage.

The ruling sparked widespread anger in the international shipping community, which insisted the tanker crew were blameless. Indian seafarer unions have staged protests.

Both Samsung and the tanker owner have said they will appeal to the supreme court but no date for the hearing has been set.

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Report: EPA allows chemical secrecy
Milwaukee (UPI) Dec 21, 2008
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has kept data about potentially dangerous chemicals secret, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says.

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