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 1,000,000 gallons 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.