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Pictures: A giant oil slick has hit the California coast

The spill is the result of an onshore pipeline leak spewing oil into the ocean for several hours yesterday.

A pelican drenched in oil sits on Refugio State Beach
A pelican drenched in oil sits on Refugio State Beach
Image: AP

AN ECOLOGICAL DISASTER has hit the California coastline as a giant oil slick measuring nine miles square covers the Pacific Ocean following an onshore pipeline accident.

The spill, which sprung from a storm drain following the pipeline leak, saw 105,000 gallons of crude oil ejected on land, 21,000 gallons of which are believed to have reached the ocean.

The accident happened at Refugio State Beach on the Gaviota coastline, 25 miles from Santa Barbara.

Plains All-American Pipeline, the oil company responsible for the pipeline, based in Houston, Texas, released a statement in which they said they “deeply regret” the incident.

refugio The site of the spill off the coast of California Source: Google Maps

California Oil Spill The site of the pipeline leak on land Source: AP/Press Association Images

APTOPIX California Oil Spill Workers removing oil-laden sand from the beach Source: AP

“We are making every effort to limit the environmental impact of this release,” the statement said.

Our focus remains on ensuring the safety of all involved. No injuries have been reported at this time.

The accident is the first to afflict the pipeline since it went live initially in 1991.

California Oil Spill Mike Harris of the California Wildlife Department preparing to rescue a pelican caught up in the slick Source: AP

California Oil Spill Buckets of oil collected from the beach Source: AP

Speaking from the site of the spill, Plains chief executive Greg L. Armstrong  said his company “apologize for the damage that has been done to the wildlife and to the environment.”

California Oil Spill A worker shoveling up oil on the beach Source: AP

California Oil Spill Whales skim the ocean surface near a sheen of oil Source: AP/Press Association Images

Armstrong further vowed that the company “will remain here until everything has been restored to normal.”

The spill is now the centre of a 24-hour a day operation as cleanup workers and volunteers battle to stem the tide of damage done.

Contains reporting from the Associated Press.

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