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South Korea to allocate $7.5 million to help oil spill region

TOKYO, December 11 (RIA Novosti) - The South Korean government is to allocate around $7.5 million to the disaster-hit zone following the country's worst-ever oil spill, the Yonhap news agency said Tuesday.

"The government must offer its maximum support to residents of the West Sea areas hit by the massive oil spill," President Roh Moo-hyun said on visiting the disaster scene Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs declared the South Chungcheong Province a special disaster zone, making its residents eligible for direct subsidies from the government.

The accident occurred on Friday morning when a crane on a barge crashed into the Hebei Spirit tanker near Mallipo beach at Taean, south of Seoul. Some 10,500 metric tons of crude subsequently gushed into sea.

The slick, which has already hit 150 kilometers (94 miles) of coastline, forced local authorities to declare the area a disaster zone, with over 19,000 troops, police officers and volunteers, as well as more than 200 ships and five aircraft, involved in the clean up effort.

Officials said the clean up operation could last for at least two months, while environmentalists warned that it could take years for the region to recover.

So far, only around 7 % of the spilled crude has been collected.

Meanwhile, English-language daily, the Korea Times, said the local maritime office had "warned the two of the impending collision about 50 minutes before the accident, but neither took specific measures."

The latest spill is the worst in Korean waters since 1995, when over 5,000 tons of crude leaked into the sea off the country's south coast.

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