Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has vowed to provide maximum federal help to clean up a massive oil spill in Queensland, describing it as a potential environmental tragedy.
Beaches on Moreton Island, Bribie Island and southern parts of the Sunshine Coast have been declared disaster zones after around 100,000 litres of oil spilled from a cargo ship caught in cyclonic winds on Wednesday.
“We will work very closely with the Queensland government and authorities on a maximum pitch-in by the commonwealth to assist the state authorities in dealing with this potential environmental tragedy,” Mr Rudd told Fairfax Radio Network on Friday.
Cargo ship detained pending probe
Cargo ship Pacific Adventurer has been detained by maritime authorities pending investigation.
Earlier this morning, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced the reason why the ship was out in cyclonic seas would be the subject of a full investigation.
“If there is any grounds for prosecution of this ship and its owners we will not hesitate to take that action.
“We will also be pursuing them for compensation as this is going to be a very big clean-up cost and I want those ship owners to be paying for it.”
Bligh defends speed of oil slick response
The Queensland opposition, local wildlife carers and environmental groups have accused the government of a slow and inadequate response.
But Ms Bligh, whose own department has now taken over the response, told reporters in Brisbane the recovery operation was working.
“It requires a clean-up exercise that is planned with military precision,” she said.
“We are not putting people and heavy equipment onto fragile, eroded beaches until they\’ve been assessed.
“To go and take all of the sand off one day and then have to take more off the next day when more oil comes on will seriously deteriorate these beaches.
“Everything that can be done in managing this incident without endangering the people who are doing the recovery work and without further deteriorating already-eroded beaches is being done.”
Ms Bligh said those involved in the cleanup could do without “sniping” from Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg.
“The last thing you need is politicians sniping from the sidelines – this is a serious incident,” she said.
The premier said the captain and shipping company would be pursued for compensation and the cleanup costs. “And if there\’s any grounds for prosecution we won\’t hesitate,” she said.