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Outbreak of spongy algae has co-host city appealing for help

BEIJING -- China's Olympic co-host city
Qingdao has appealed for help from nearby ports to contain an
algae bloom that has left large swathes of offshore waters
coated in green muck 40 days ahead of the Games.

Qingdao, which will host Olympic sailing events during the
August Beijing Games, had asked coastal cities to help in
clean-up efforts, and had already co-opted 10,000 local
residents and troops, and hundreds of boats to dredge the resort
town's bays.

"In guaranteeing the safety of surrounding waters, do the
utmost to support and aid Qingdao in every item of work,"
Sunday's Qingdao Morning Post quoted Shandong province's
governor Jiang Daming, as saying in work instructions to nearby
coastal cities.

Algae blooms regularly blight the shores of Qingdao, a
former German concession port where Chinese flock every summer
to swim in relatively clean waters.

Authorities had so far cleaned 8,626 metric tons of floating weed
from coastal waters and scooped up another 13,665 metric tons that
had washed up on local beaches, a report posted on the Qingdao
government website (www.qingdao.gov.cn) said.

"This is more severe than common algae outbreaks," a
microbiology professor surnamed He at Qingdao's Ocean University
told Reuters by telephone, adding that ferries to nearby islands
had suspended services for several days.

Pictures carried by local media showed officials and
soldiers raking up piles of spongy weed. A witness reported
seeing trucks loaded with weed parked on local beaches.

Media reports, which referred to the green tide as "hu tai"
meaning "water-borne lichen", said it had been caused by an
untimely confluence of wind and currents influenced by stormy
conditions in southern China.

"Such a large, protracted [outbreak] of water-borne lichen
with many uncertain factors poses a severe risk. All departments
at different levels should be clear about their work priorities
... to safeguard water quality for the Olympic sailing events,"
governor Jiang said.

China's coastal waters and inland lakes regularly suffer
algae blooms, often exacerbated by pollution from chemical
factories and fertiliser run-off from farms.

A major outbreak last year on eastern China's Tai Lake cut
off drinking water to millions of residents in Jiangsu
province's Wuxi city.