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China oil spill doubles in size, is deemed 'severe threat'
BEIJING — China's largest reported oil spill more than doubled in size to 165 square miles by Wednesday, forcing nearby beaches to close and prompting one official to warn of a "severe threat" to sea life and water quality.
The oil slick started spreading five days ago when a pipeline at a busy northeastern port exploded, sparking a massive fire that took more than 15 hours to contain. Hundreds of boats have been deployed to help with the cleanup.
At least one person has been killed in those efforts, a 25-year-old firefighter, Zhang Liang, who drowned Tuesday after a wave threw him from a vessel and pushed him out to sea, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. Another man who also fell in was rescued.
Beaches near Dalian, once named China's most livable city, were closing as oil started reaching their shores, Xinhua reported.
Largest spill in recent memory
Officials told Xinhua they did not yet know how much oil had leaked, but China Central Television reported no more pollution, including oil and firefighting chemicals, had entered the sea Tuesday. It was not clear how far the spill was from China's closest neighbor in the region, North Korea.