Coconut Bay, Thailand

LisaRoxyCoconut Bay before the oil spill.

What could be lovelier than a vacation at Thailand’s Coconut Bay?

Right now, just about anything.

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Thousands of gallons of crude gushed from a ruptured pipeline into the Gulf of Thailand over the weekend, blackening shorelines that had recently been bustling with tourists. Some beaches have been closed; others have simply been deserted.

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Chemical dispersants have been dumped from airplanes over the slick, which should be helping to break up the oil but also potentially sickening workers, visitors, fish, and other wildlife.

The paradise-like island of Koh Samet, a tourist hub that’s four hours by bus and boat from Bangkok, has been hit hard. An official told reporters that tourism there had been impacted in “an extreme way.” Officials fear that the slick could reach central Thailand. From Reuters:

Worst hit was the beach at Ao Prao, or Coconut Bay, but tourists elsewhere on the island were getting out.

“We’re staying on another beach but we’re not taking any chances. We are checking out,” Daria Volkov, a tourist from Moscow, told Reuters.

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Koh Samet, known for its beaches and clear, warm sea, is thronged by domestic and foreign tourists, thanks to its proximity to Bangkok.

“Tourists are leaving, some have cancelled their bookings,” said Chairat Trirattanajarasporn, chairman of the provincial tourist association.

Pipeline owner PTT Global Chemical Pcl, which is part of state-controlled PTT Pcl, Thailand’s biggest energy firm, has apologized for the spill and says the cleanup could take several more days. That prediction seems as ludicrous as its claim that just 13,000 gallons of oil spilled from the pipe. If the cleanup is stopped after just several days, there will be a lot of oil left behind on sandy shorelines.