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Oil Washes Up on Florida Beaches

August 9, 2000

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) _ The largest South Florida oil slick in at least 10 years kept about 15 miles of beach closed Wednesday, and Coast Guard officials speculated that the mess was intentional because no ships had reported accidental spills.

``It would be pretty hard to come up with another reason,″ Coast Guard Cmdr. Richard Ferraro said.

Workers rushed to clean a state recreation area where thousands of endangered sea turtles were about to hatch.

The heavy crude oil was discovered Tuesday, washing ashore in puddles, globules and clumps, and swimming was quickly banned from Pompano Beach to Golden Beach, a stretch that includes Fort Lauderdale.

The oil could cause respiratory problems, skin rashes and eye damage in humans, and it is potentially fatal to wildlife.

The oil could kill the turtle hatchlings, officials said.

``Once they hit it, they’re gone,″ Capt. Glenn Morris of the Dania Beach Marine Rescue Division told The Miami Herald.

Some beach visitors were coated with oil Tuesday.

``I went in knee deep, and it just stuck everywhere,″ Dagmar Kardel of Fort Lauderdale told The Herald. ``It’s terrible. Especially with so many pelicans ... here. There is no way to get it off them.″

Randy and Jan Hamater, vacationers from Chicago, said they couldn’t figure out why lifeguards were waving people out of the water.

``We thought maybe there were sharks,″ Jan Hamater said.

Several other oil slicks have washed up on South Florida beaches in the past decade, but none had led to a ban on swimming and most involved less than 1,000 gallons of oil.

A month ago, swimming was banned for nine days on a long stretch of Miami-Dade beaches after a broken main spewed sewage into the sea.

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