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(PHOTOS): Bare Hands Clean-Up of a Horrible Oil Spill

By David Sassoon

Jul 29, 2010

It is hard to look at the pictures in the following photo essay. They ask hard questions and provide no answers. Factually, they document how some people responded to a 400,000 gallon oil spill that's grown into a slick covering more than 150 square miles.

These pictures are not from the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. The Kalamazoo spill just happened two days ago and at is more than twice the size of the one pictured here. As far as we know, no one there is cleaning up the mess with their bare hands, or their bodies.

These pictures come from a port city in China called Dalian, where two pipelines exploded on July 16, sending black crude into the Yellow Sea. The people who were there, or who were sent to clean up the terrible accident, were unaware of the dangers they faced as they contended with the petrochemical mess.

Crude oil contains significant quantities of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and other dangerous chemicals that do not readily dissolve in water. Hydrocarbons can be absorbed by the human body via inhalation, ingestion or through direct contact with skin.

These photos were taken by Greenpeace photographer Jiang He. They tell their own shocking story, and hold a distant mirror up to the Gulf oil disaster, which released as much as 500 times more oil into the ocean than the explosion in Dalian -- maybe as much as 200 million gallons more.

Where did all that oil in the Gulf go?

Why do they have to clean up the oil spill in Dalian with their bare hands?








Two workers ran into trouble as they attempted to fix an underwater pump during oil spill cleanup operations. Another worker leaps into the thick oily water to attempt a rescue.




Firefighter worker Zhang Liang struggles in the oil as a man attempts to rescue him and his colleague. His colleague was rescued but Zhang Liang went under and did not surface and died in the oily water.



This worker was rescued.





Zhang Liang's funeral.






how can I contact Jiang He and use these pictures

Excuse me, can you do me a favor to let me know how to contact Jiang He and use these pictures? Thank you!


Hello, I'm a reporter of China IBTimes, the China local edition of an international business paper. Recently I'm following the progress of Dalian oil spill, and I'm really shocked by the pictures you put on this blog.

I wondered if you can contribute the precious opinions for my article to let China readers pay attention to these serious situation.

My questions are:
1. What kind of methods does China use to clean the leak oil, and what harm will these methods bring to cleaners, if there are some.

2. Are there some international standards of the safety measures to protect oil cleaners?

3. If you have any other opinions want to share will us, please feel free to let me know.

We are using Chinese language and target a lot of local readers.

Thank you very much.

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