Workers on Ao Prao beach use buckets to remove oil from the surf.
On Saturday, July 27, an underwater pipeline off of Rayong province in southeastern Thailand sprung a leak. Officials say 50,000 liters of crude oil poured out of the pipeline before it was shut down. Skeptics say a lot more oil was released.
The oil spill was announced Sunday. Officials said everything was under control and the oil was not expected to make landfall or foul any of the pristine beaches on nearby Koh Samet island, a very popular weekend getaway for people who live in Bangkok, Thailand's teeming capital city.
Officials were wrong. By Monday, July 29, oil was washing up on Ao Prao, a secluded beach on Koh Samet. By Wednesday, July 31, Thai officials announced that the slick was larger than the island of Koh Samet, that the situation was essentially out of control and requested international help in reining it in.
Workers haul a pump out of the surf.
I went to Koh Samet Tuesday to photograph the cleanup efforts. When I was on Samet, the spill was limited to the area around Ao Prao, on the west side of the island and the rest of the island was humming along like it always does.