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Sea Empress disaster 20 years on

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Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 15.33.15IT WAS one of the biggest environmental disasters ever to hit UK shores and now 20 years on from the Sea Empress disaster RSPCA staff are looking back at the role they played in helping to save hundreds of seabirds and mammals.

Early on the evening of 15 February, 1996 the Sea Empress, a single hull oil tanker, hit rocks on its way into the Cleddau Estuary and the ship’s cargo of 130,000 tonnes of crude North Sea oil started to spill into the waters off Pembrokeshire.

The RSPCA launched a massive rescue operation in response to the disaster in an effort to save the thousands of oiled and dying seabirds that were so badly affected by the slick.

Scores of volunteers helped open and run a makeshift animal hospital – set up in an old industrial unit – where more than 7,000 dead or oiled birds were taken – while inspectors, drivers and wildlife centre staff experts worked around the clock to nurse, clean and feed as many of the birds back to health as they could.

“The rescue operation took a massive team effort,” said RSPCA chief inspector for the south west Wales inspectorate group, Romain de Kerckhove, who held the same position 20 years ago.

“It quickly became apparent that this incident was of a scale that needed national resources, and a roster was arranged that invited colleagues from all over England and Wales to become involved,” he said.

“Officers would attend, for a limited period, and would work extremely long days, responding to calls from the public, and patrolling beaches to search for victims of the disaster.

“They were accommodated locally, and would be replaced by other colleagues in order to keep the team fresh and strong. Some officers would actually sleep on camp beds at the temporary bird rescue holding/cleaning facility, in order to ensure that there were people on site overseeing the welfare of the birds 24/7.

“This was a rescue that involved teams from across the entire RSPCA, as well as countless volunteers who would work with us, and assist the RSPCA teams both at the cleaning and rehab centre, as well as on the beaches.

“It was hard work, but everyone enjoyed the atmosphere and being involved in such a worthwhile and much needed rescue operation.”

Richard Abbott, who is now an RSPCA chief inspector, was the officer on duty the night the Sea Empress ran aground. “I recall speaking to a Brecon RCC (Brecon Regional Control Centre) tasker who said they had received a call saying a tanker had run aground at Milford Haven and was leaking 30,000 gallons of oil.

I recall thinking, no chance, that’s never going to have happened, not these days with twin hulled tankers. I asked the tasker to ring the Coastguard to double check as I was driving and enroute to an emergency at the time, about 10.30pm ish.

“She rang me back about five minutes later and said to my astonishment that the Coastguard had confirmed the report. I pulled over and rang the chief inspector Romain de Kerckhove at home and started the response.

“I got back in about 1am that night and by 7am I had the call that I was needed to help set up the emergency response centre. A few hours later chief inspector Romain de Kerckhove arrived and took over.

“It was incredibly stressful for those three to four weeks, as we dealt with thousands birds and managed many rescue organisations. It was a steep learning curve.”

RSPCA inspector Rohan Barker attended the day after the incident with chief inspector Romain de Kerckhove.

“We spent two days putting together our response working with several organisations with very few birds coming in during the initial couple of days – but then the onslaught started.

“We worked 15 hour shifts collecting birds, setting up the cleaning station at a local industrial estate building provided by the council.

“Birds were collected by inspectors, animal collection officers and members of the public, brought to the station, initially cleaned and shipped off to RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre by a fleet of vans.”

Dermot Murphy, who is now assistant director of inspectorate at the RSPCA, was one of the convoy of ambulance drivers drafted in from across the country at the time of the disaster to help ship stricken birds from the Pembrokeshire coast to the makeshift hospital.

“I was an RSPCA Ambulance Driver in London then, with just over a year’s service. I was sent to Milford Haven with an Inspector for a week.

“I had never seen anything like it. So many birds covered in oil in a terrible state, they were still being washed up two weeks into the operation. The birds that stuck in my mind were the common scoter, which is a sea duck. There were so many of them, an incredible amount and in such a bad way too.

“We had a busy week and did a range of duties, from collecting food to feed staff, patrolling beaches looking for oiled birds and cutting up food to feed the birds. It was a massive cleaning operation.”

Inside the RSPCA West Hatch Wildlife Centre in Somerset Paul Oaten was one of the team at the ready to take in casualties as they arrived in their droves from the Welsh coastline.

“We took in around 1,200 oiled birds. at the time of the Sea Empress disaster. They were covered in thick oil. Most of the casualties were scoters, and they were very badly affected.

“Luckily we had a lot of volunteers that came in to help with the sheer volume of birds that were coming in through the doors every day. People were happy to come in and wash towels while others spent their days cutting up sprats (fish) for the birds to eat.

“Those that were tasked with washing the birds would be in teams of two. One would hold the birds, the other would clean it using Fairy liquid. They would have a pre-clean where we would try to get as much of the oil off as possible without stressing the birds out. It was so important to get the oil off their plumage, not just because of the feathers but so that we could try to prevent them from ingesting the oil and stop it from burning them too.

“A lot of the birds were emaciated because they could not feed so building their strength back up and increasing their weight was also an important part of the process.”

He added: “Every role was vital to ensure we could keep the steady flow of birds through the cleaning system and the sense of teamwork was immense. That is my overwhelming memory of that time. the teamwork. It was so uplifting. The days were long and it was hard work but we were all working towards a common goal of trying to save these poor stricken birds.”

WWF-UK Head of Marine Policy Dr Lyndsey Dodds said told The Herald: “20 years on from the Sea Empress, Welsh waters are busier than ever but management is still piecemeal.

“The forthcoming Welsh National Marine Plan offers the opportunity to strategically manage activities that can impact upon Wales’s natural assets and should include provisions to ensure that the risks to the most sensitive areas from both accidental and chronic pollution are minimised.”

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Education

Oxbridge success for Pembrokeshire College students

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A-LEVEL students at Pembrokeshire College are celebrating after an impressive set of A-level results which has seen four students secure their places to study at either Oxford or Cambridge.

A breakdown of results shows 36% of students achieving A*-A grades and 88% achieving A*-C grades. With growing A-level numbers the College saw 278 results at A*-C grade out of a total of 315.

With the results for vocational courses now also out, over 260 A-level and Extended Diploma students are now hopeful of securing their places at university.

Students heading to the University of Oxford are Jessica Hillier (A*A*A*A) to read Biology at Jesus College, Lorna McEvoy (A*A*A) to read History at Trinity College and Lizzy Rowland (A*A*A) to read Law at Christ Church College. Meanwhile fellow student Alyssa Baker (A*A*A*) will be heading to the University of Cambridge to read Human, Social and Political Sciences at Sydney Sussex College.

Also heading to the University of Cambridge to read Modern Foreign Languages at Trinity College is Federation student Emma Nicholas. We would like to join Milford Haven High School in congratulating Emma on her results.

Other notable A-level successes include former Ysgol Bro Gwaun students Callum Harries who achieved four A* grades and Sam Rummery who achieved three A* grades. Congratulations also to former Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi students Tom Sheppard who achieved two A* grades and an A grade, and Caitlin Howe who achieved three A grades.

This year has also seen BTEC National Diploma students excelling once again with many students achieving Distinction grades and taking up places at universities across the UK to study a range of subjects including Cyber Security, Biological Sciences, Law, Pharmacology and Midwifery.

University destinations for Pembrokeshire College students span the length and breadth of the UK and include: Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter, Aberystwyth, Durham and Edinburgh.

After receiving this year’s A-level results, Principal Dr Barry Walters commented: “These results are testament to the hard work of our learners. With university places being offered prior to lockdown, based on each individual learner’s performance and achievements, we are mindful not to let the current situation detract from how hard these learners have worked throughout both their AS and A2 year to achieve the results that we see today.

“Grades were estimated based on work already submitted and it is important that the achievements of these learners are not underplayed. To have four students progressing to either Oxford or Cambridge is a huge achievement for the learners themselves, the teaching staff and the College as a whole.  We are also delighted to note an increase in the number of our students gaining places at other high profile Russell Group and Sutton Trust Institutions.

“To the significant number of learners, from both A-levels and vocational diplomas, now progressing to universities across the UK to study a vast array of programmes, we wish them all the best of luck and hope that they will keep in touch as they progress through their studies and into their future careers.”

For further information on the courses available at the College contact Admissions on 0800 9 776 778 or go to pembs.ac.uk/courses

 

Summary of Results:

Overall pass rate 100%

A*/A grade 36%

A*-C grade 88%

 

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Restriction to prevent overnight motorhome parking near Newgale

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A TEMPORARY Traffic Restriction Notice has been put in place after safety concerns over overnight parking close to a Pembrokeshire beauty spot.

Pembrokeshire County Council is introducing the order to prevent the waiting of caravans and motor caravans (motorhomes) between 8pm and 7am close to Newgale.

The Notice applies to the two large laybys either side of the A487 as you drive down the hill towards Newgale, and the small layby close to the junction with Welsh Road.

The same restrictions will apply to Welsh Road, from the junction with the A487 to the junction with the C3067 leading to Roch.

The restrictions came into force yesterday (Thursday) and will be in force for a period of 21 days initially.

Darren Thomas, Head of Infrastructure at Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “The Notice has been made in order to address feedback received from the community and also safety concerns in respect of obstructive parking by motor caravans that is taking place along the public highway and associated health and safety issues”.

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Pembrokeshire ‘A’ Level Results

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Pembrokeshire County Council congratulates all learners who have received either ‘A’ Level or Level Three vocational qualification results today (Thursday, 13 th August).

All school-based settings have provided opportunities for learners to receive their results on-site today with appropriate social distancing measures in place. All settings are providing information, advice and guidance to learners via an appointments system.

Learners’ achievements this year are to be celebrated as they are in any other year.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought significant challenges for learners, families and schools with new systems being used to calculate learner outcomes due to the cancellation of the Summer 2020 Examination Series.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “We congratulate all learners today on their achievements. Every school has enabled learners to achieve outcomes that will provide them with a range of options.

“All learners have achieved outcomes that will enable them to take the next steps in their journey whether that is further or higher education, employment or training.

“We are sharing in the success of each learner and all schools have shared examples of this success with the Council.”

Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, Guy Woodham, added: “I congratulate all learners on their achievements. As a local authority, we have been committed to supporting learners in achieving the best possible outcomes.

“Learners who have received their results today will have acquired a range of skills that enable them to be lifelong learners and hopefully achieve more than they thought possible. I wish all learners every success for the future.”

At Ysgol Greenhill, Tenby, the headteacher, Ray McGovern, and the governing body, congratulated all learners and in particular: Josie Dodd – 3A*s – History, English Lit & Welsh Bacc. Going to Birmingham to study Law; Katie Nicholls – AAAB – A* in Geography, Maths and Welsh Bacc and a B in Biology. Cardiff University to study Optometry; Oakley Milton – AABB – A* in Chemistry and Maths and a B in Physics and Welsh Bacc. Going to Bath to study Chemical Engineering with  Environmental Engineering.

Harrison Cole Picton – ABBB – A in Welsh Bacc and a B in Geography, History and Government and Politics. Going to University of Warwick to study Government and Politics.

Ysgol Harri Tudur/ Henry Tudor School, Pembroke, is tremendously proud of all Year 13 students in these unprecedented times and what was an unexpected and abrupt end to their schooling. Almost all of school’s Year 13 cohort achieved a set of results enabling them to taken up their places at universities in England and Wales.  The school sends them off to the next part of their academic journey with best wishes for their sustained and future success

At Haverfordwest VC High School, headteacher Mrs Jane Harries and the governing body  congratulate the Sixth Form students on their excellent results. Notable results are: Jake Scott who achieved A* grades in Maths, Chemistry and Physics and A grade in Further Maths; Efa Walker achieved A* grades in English Literature and Religious Studies and A grades in French and History; Jamie Reason achieved A* grades in Maths, Further Maths and Physics; Ellie Dixson with A* in English Literature, A in History and Welsh Baccalaureate and B grade in Biology; Iris Bruins with A grades in English Literature, Psychology, Welsh Baccalaureate and B grade in Chemistry.

At Milford Haven School, the staff and governing body are extremely proud of every one of their achievements. Headteacher, Ms Ceri-Ann Morris, said: “Everyone at Milford Haven School congratulates students on their success achieved at ‘A’ Level and equivalent Level Three courses during this academic year. We wish them every success and hope they all have a bright future – whether it be continuing in education/apprenticeship or employment. Outstanding performances includes those of Emma Nicholas, Isabella Cutolo, Leah Harries, Niamh Taylor Dylan Evans and Carys Wild.

At Ysgol Y Preseli, Crymych, the governing body and staff congratulated all learners on their achievements. Notable successes were: William Lloyd, a highly intelligent and focused student who has all the attributes required to successfully complete a degree in Engineering. He attained an A* in Mathematics, an A* in Geography and an A* in Physics. He also attained an A in his Further Mathematics AS course. Nia Stedman returned to Ysgol y Preseli in order to follow a vocational route. She has completed BTEC Level 3 qualifications in Sport and Health and Social Care and  uccessfully completed the Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate as part of the Welsh Baccalaureate qualification. She also achieved Distinction* in Sport, Distinction in Health and Social Care and an A grade in the  Welsh Bac Skills Challenge Certificate. Ffion Thomas whose contribution to the extra -curricular work of the Music Department has been outstanding. Her impressive skillset was recognised earlier this year when she was elected as Head Girl at Ysgol y Preseli. Her talent has resulted in her gaining a place to study Music at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

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