( AP ) - The captains of a barge and its tugboat have been arrested on charges of causing the accident that led to South Korea's worst-ever oil spill, a coast guard official said Tuesday.
The Dec. 7 accident occurred after a wire linking the barge and tugboat was cut in high winds, sending the barge slamming into a supertanker. The tanker leaked 78,920 barrels of oil into South Korea's western waters, creating a spill nearly a third of the size of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster that sent 260,000 barrels of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound.
The two South Korean captains were charged with professional negligence and violation of the ocean pollution law, a coast guard officer said on condition of anonymity, citing office policy.
The officer said his office was also investigating the Indian captain of the Hong Kong-registered tanker, Hebei Spirit, for any wrongdoing.
About 490,000 coast guard officers, soldiers, residents and volunteer workers have taken part in efforts to clean up the spill, which has jeopardized the ecosystem and blackened beaches. On Tuesday, some 23,550 people were still working, along with 210 ships and six helicopters, according to the Coast Guard.