Connect with us
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

Sea Empress disaster 20 years on

Published

on

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.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

News

Have your say on the Development Plan for Pembrokeshire

Published

on

PEMBROKESHIRE County Council is reviewing its Local Development Plan.

The new Plan will shape planning and development in Pembrokeshire for the next 15 years.

Between 17 December 2018 and 4 February 2019, the Council consulted on a Preferred Strategy for the new Plan.

At the same time, it consulted on several other related documents, including a Register of Candidate Sites, these being sites suggested to the Council for development or for protection from development, for possible inclusion in the new Plan.

During the consultation period, a further opportunity was provided to submit Candidate Sites.

In consequence, a further 55 sites were received, these being known as the Additional Candidate Sites.

As the Council provided an opportunity to comment on the initial tranche of Candidate Sites, it is now providing a like opportunity to comment on the 55 Additional Candidate Sites.

This opportunity is specific to the 55 additional sites submitted between 17 December 2018 and 4 February 2019, and does not apply to the initial batch of sites.

The consultation period for submission of comments on the Additional Candidate Sites runs from the 17 April 2019 to the 6 June 2019 at 4.30pm.

The Additional Candidate Sites Register is available to view on the Council’s web-site (see link below) and also at County Hall, Haverfordwest, in Pembrokeshire County Council Customer Service Centres and in local Libraries, during normal opening hours.

https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/local-development-plan-review/candidate-sites

To find out more, you can contact the Local Development Plan team on 01437 764551 or by emailing ldp@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

Continue Reading

News

West Wales responds to Notre-Dame ‘tragedy’

Published

on

Notre-Dame de Paris: The large fire partially destroyed the cathedral on Monday

THE WORLD has reacted to the major fire that partially destroyed Notre-Dame Cathedral, with religious leaders of west Wales among those to have sent prayers to Paris.

The large fire on Monday (Apr 15) damaged much of the historic landmark, destroying the roof as well as the famous spire. The fire began at around 6:30pm local time (4:30pm GMT) and it took until 10am (8am GMT) on Tuesday morning for firefighters to fully extinguish the blaze. Many of the relics held in the cathedral, including the crown of thorns brought there in 1239 by St. Louis, said to be that which was placed on the head of Jesus leading up to his crucifixion, were saved by firefighters. One firefighter is said to have suffered minor injuries while tackling the fire. The cause of the fire is not yet clear, but Paris’ public prosecutor is working under the assumption that it was an accident.

Whilst the principal structure was saved, including the famed towers, the building is still seen as unstable. Prior to the fire, there was already scaffolding in place to deal with the cracks appearing in the stonework. Renovations were underway and 16 copper statues had already been removed last week.

Notre-Dame de Paris, meaning ‘Our Lady of Paris’, is one of the most widely recognised symbols of France, and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site of the cathedral is thought to have been of religious significance dating back as far as Roman Gaul. The construction of the modern church began in 1163, and the cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

Already hundreds of millions of euros have been donated towards the reconstruction of the site, as people across the world have reacted to the news and sent both prayers and funds to Paris.

Bishop of Menevia Tom Burns said: “For a thousand years it has stood as a beacon of prayer and hope. But what a tragedy struck Paris and the French nation on Monday evening at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. It is a beautiful creation that resides at the very heart of French life and in the hearts of French people wherever they happen to be, of whatever faith or none. It has struck chords in all people of good will who have walked through its doors into an arena of peace and calm.

“Some years ago, after wondering at the flying-buttresses that supported the thick stone walls, I had entered under that roof, never conscious of the vulnerability of its wooden structure. As I saw on television on Monday evening the fire raging through the roof, and the spire disintegrating piece by piece, I felt a lump in my throat. I shared with the people of France my sense of having once touched something quite unique. For, it had been my privilege, as Bishop of HM Forces, to preach from the Cathedral’s vast pulpit on Remembrance Sunday just over a decade ago.

“Now this was another sad occasion to remember, though thankfully without any loss of life. As York Minster was resurrected from the flames some years ago, and similarly Windsor Castle in more recent times, may the experts in restoring ancient buildings combine their God-given skills to rebuilding Notre-Dame de Paris. May it rise from the ashes to fulfil its function as God’s House in this world and to re-assure us that such a building evokes belonging and inspires us to greater things. It is still greatly needed, if not even more so now.”

Fr. Liam Bradley, Parish Priest at St David and St Patrick Church in Haverfordwest, said: “We hold in our hearts and prayers those who take risks to save life and property. May God bless the skills of craftsmen and women as they undertake the task of rebuilding.

“God our Father, let the community of Paris come together in this moment of difficulty and grace, to rebuild your house and do you honour, and so provide an enduring monument of how high the human spirit can soar in the face of adversity.

“As buildings crumble, may our faith be strong; from the ashes, may new fruit be born. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Paris, may all the people of France be filled with the peace and joy of Jesus Christ, risen for us at Easter. Amen.

“St Denis – Pray for us!”

Continue Reading

News

Contractor named on link road

Published

on

Pictured left to right at the site are: Rob Hamer (senior engineer for Pembrokeshire County Council); Tony Dinan (site supervisor for Atkins); Councillor Pat Davies and Peter Walters (site foreman for GD Harries).

PEMBROKESHIRE-BASED contractors GD Harries have been appointed to complete works on the internal link road in Fishguard after the previous contractors, Dawnus, went into administration.

Work has started again on the multi-million pound site and which is scheduled for completion this summer.

The road will be named Ffordd Yr Efail. Pembrokeshire County Council’s Elected Member for Fishguard North West Councillor Pat Davies said: “I am delighted that the road scheme now is near completion as it has encountered some problems during its construction but it is intended that it will be ready for use by early summer.

“The next phase of the scheme is to be completed by Welsh Government with the widening of the pavements in High Street and West Street.

“I sincerely hope that when this long awaited development is complete that it will promote the town and that we are ‘open for business’.”

The scheme has been designed by consulting engineers, Atkins.

Continue Reading
News1 day ago

West Wales responds to Notre-Dame ‘tragedy’

THE WORLD has reacted to the major fire that partially destroyed Notre-Dame Cathedral, with religious leaders of west Wales among...

News3 days ago

Pembrokeshire County Council prepares for European Elections

THE 2019 European Parliament election is due to be held on Thursday, 23rd May. Initially, the elections were not planned...

News3 days ago

Kilgetty: Biker killed in roundabout accident

EMERGENCY SERVICES including the air ambulance are responding to an accident involving a motorbike at Kilgetty roundabout. A spokesperson for...

News5 days ago

Milford Haven: Chainsaw raid on suspected drug dealers, three arrested

THE ONGOING battle between police and drug dealers in Milford Haven continued this week with police arresting three people, and...

News6 days ago

Hundreds of county businesses eligible for rate relief

MORE than 500 small and medium-sized businesses in Pembrokeshire can apply for rate relief of up to £2,500 thanks to...

News7 days ago

Haverfordwest: Man found dead at City Road Cemetery

THE WAS a large police presence at City Road Cemetery in Haverfordwest on Thursday afternoon (Apr 11). Police vehicles, and...

News7 days ago

Neyland Community School closing early on Fridays

NEYLAND COMMUNITY SCHOOL is giving its 300 pupils Friday afternoons off, with that time set to be used to provide...

News1 week ago

Police appeal for missing Haverfordwest man

DYFED-POWYS POLICE is searching for missing 32-year-old Jonathan Wheelhouse, aka John Hilling, who was last seen in Haverfordwest at around...

News1 week ago

Steve Baxter jailed for life, and will not be released for at least 24 years

STEVE Baxter, who stabbed Simon Clark to death at a caravan park in Pendine, has been jailed for life at...

News1 week ago

Kilgetty: 64,000-strong hen farm set for approval

A KILGETTY farm could soon be home to 64,000 hens if plans are approved by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Planning Committee...

Popular This Week