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Tens of Thousands Still Engaged in Cleanup of Korea's Worst Oil Spill

Members of the Salvation Army are among the tens of thousands who have been assisting in the cleanup of South Korea's worst-ever oil spill, which an official said Thursday was worse than estimated.

Nearly 80,000 barrels of oil were spilled earlier this month when a barge carrying a crane pierced the hull of a Hong Kong-registered tanker, said Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry official Kim Jung-seok, according to The Associated Press.

The spill — some 2 1/2 times bigger than South Korea's worst previous spill in 1995 — has severely jeopardized the ecosystem and spoiled hundreds of seafood farms near the coastline of the Taean Peninsula, around 100 km southwest of capital city Seoul.

Tens of thousands of coast guard officers, soldiers, residents and volunteer workers have been mobilized to clean up the muck. Some 37,000 people were still working Thursday with 845 ships and 10 helicopters, said Coast Guard spokesman Lee Won-yeol.

"We don't know until when we have to continue the cleanup work but believe we'll soon enter the final stage," he said, according to AP.

The Salvation Army, the first NGO to assist with the clean-up operation, has been serving meals and hot drinks on the shores of Mallipo Beach since the first day of the cleanup operation.

Military soldiers, policemen, firemen and local volunteers involved in the hefty efforts to restore the area – not far from a nature reserve and national park – are just some of those who have benefited from thousands of meals served up by The Salvation Army's mobile canteen unit since the Dec. 7 spill.

The Salvation Army's territorial commander in South Korea, Commissioner Chun Kwang-pyo, as well as other Salvation Army leaders have been in the area to see for themselves the scale of the spill, and meet cleanup workers.

They said a prayer for the victims of the spill – including local fish, oyster and abalone farmers in particular. Later on, the divisional commander got his hands dirty along with some more officers from the Suh Hae Division as they helped other workers clean the oil off the beaches.

Christian Post correspondent Maria Mackay contributed to this report.

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