4. The Reactions of the Population 

After the spill, enormous clean-up operations started to take place. Everyone seemed concerned to lend a hand and it was really amazing how many volunteers there were. These went to the beaches and helped to clean them up. This was a dirty, unpleasant job, the strong smell of the oil making it more unpleasant still.

They raised money and made donations to various organisations such as the Dyfed Wild Life Trust or the P.S.P.B. (Pembrokeshire Society for the Protection of Birds). Even young pupils in schools collected money to help these organisations and school classes were often to be seen cleaning up the beaches. In addition, practical objects like towels, sheets and washing-up liquid (used for the cleaning of oiled birds) were collected among the population. Even supermarkets were involved in this and served as collecting centres.20

The reaction of the people living in and around Pembrokeshire to the disaster was one of anger and sadness first of all. They saw all the beaches they loved to visit covered with thick black oil and they could smell the stinking fumes. The newspapers were full of letters from the public, in which people expressed their bitterness and frustration about the situation and called it "shameful"21 and "a complete tragedy".22 Even young children were obviously very upset and touched, as they were forced to realise that their former "playground" beaches, with all their rock-pools, containing interesting creatures like sea anemones and water fleas and the occasional crab or star fish, with their huge variety of shells they loved to collect,

the rocks and cliffs they enjoyed climbing on, the safe clear water for bathing in and with all the adventures these beaches had to offer, had turned into horrible, oily, ugly places covered with dead fish and birds and other sea creatures. During my visit in Wales I talked to many parents who told me they had been too worried to let their children go to the beaches, as they had been afraid that they might be harmed in their health by the oil lying everywhere, not to mention the problem of removing the oil stains from their clothing. The children wrote down their feelings or expressed them in paintings, composed poems, wrote little stories and also sent letters to the Prime Minister to tell him their disgust and sadness at what had happened.23 Everyone was upset and angry that the disaster had occurred in the first place and that, when it had taken place, the salvage operation had been so slow and full of mishaps. Most local people I talked to were demanding an independent public inquiry, so that those responsible for the catastrophe would also be made responsible for it with all consequences. Action groups were formed and these involved themselves in the clean-up processes. Local collections to support these groups raised high sums of money.24 One housewife in Freshwater West, a magnificent beach, which was particularly badly polluted, started collecting signatures against the use of single-skin tankers, in order to reduce the risk of another similar disaster.25


20 cf. A flood of help, in: Western Telegraph, 03-06-1996 (ref. doc. n 2)
21 cf. Shameful, in: The Mercury, 01-03-1996, p. 16
22 cf. A complete tragedy, in: The Mercury, 23-02-1996, p. 9
23 cf. The oil disaster, in: The Mercury, 08-03-1996, p.11
24 cf. A flood of help, in: Western Telegraph, 03-06-1996, (ref. doc. n 2)
25 cf. Housewife's petition for ban, in: The Mercury (ref. doc. n 3)

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