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New campaign to drive off 'Black Death'

PUBLISHED: 19:40 06 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:09 03 March 2010

STOP the Black Death!

That's the heartrending cry today from the whole of the Suffolk community, which has been left shocked and appalled by the damage being done to the county's precious coastline by an oil slick.

STOP the Black Death!

That's the heartrending cry today from the whole of the Suffolk community, which has been left shocked and appalled by the damage being done to the county's precious coastline by an oil slick.

It's being called the forgotten disaster, but one which is having serious consequences for our wildlife.

And environmentalists says the worst could be yet to come – because the experts tracking the slick have lost it . . . and do not know where it will land next.

Tonight the Evening Star says action must be taken to stop this disaster – which has happened before – from happening again.

There must be a European-wide will to tackle this deadly killer, which stalks our coast and could strike at any moment – and tough action to deal with those who cause their ships to spew their guts and leave our beaches covered in sludge.

The slick, which has already killed birds in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, could wash ashore in Belgium or Holland.

It's an issue which affects everyone – as the Spanish will testify as they continue to clean up the horrendous mess, including 17,000 dead seabirds, caused by the tanker Prestige.

Tonight we ask you to sign our petition and add your voice to the growing demands to stop rustbucket oil tankers sailing up and down our coasts, and to catch and deal with those who illegally flush out tanks regardless of the consequences.

Oil is one of the most devastating materials, one of the hardest to clean up, and can cause irreversible damage to wildlife and its habitat.

Already 300 seabirds have been killed and more than 600 are being cared for after being contaminated by the oil, which has clotted their feathers and left them stranded and dying on our shores.

Beaches from Walberswick to Felixstowe have warning signs to make walkers aware of the tar-like lumps on the high-tide line and many people have already had shoes, clothes and fishing equipment ruined.

But the experts are not making any progress on tracing who is responsible for the slick, or where the slick is now.

They simply say it will be almost impossible to trace the ship which caused it and the Maritime Coastguard Agency, the pollution inspectorate, seems to be able to do little except occasionally send a plane up to carry out reconnaissance.

But that is not good enough. East Anglian Euro MP Richard Howitt says much more should be done – and could be done.

"Samples of oil washed up can be matched with oil from cargoes, radar surveillance can be used, satellite photography – there are all sorts of methods which can be used to track their routes. We must have the resolve to do this and find the culprits," he said.

Both the RSPCA and RSPB are appalled at what has happened – and the way it is being tackled.

"Although the much of the oil has not yet reached East Anglia's beaches, the slick offshore is a disaster for the seabirds," said RSPCA spokeswoman Sari Eldridge.

"It is the worst incident we have faced along the east coast for some years. No one has yet identified the source or whether it is crude oil or bunker oil."

n What do you think of the oil polluters? What should be done to stop tankers ruining our shores? Write to Evening Star letters at 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or email EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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