Nearly 40 miles of Australian beaches have been blackened by oil spilled from a cargo ship caught in stormy seas this week, leading the state premier Friday to declare the area a disaster zone and warn the ship's operators could face legal action.
Popular tourist spots along the Sunshine Coast, as well as Moreton Island and Bribie Island, were declared disaster zones, as 37 miles (60 kilometers) of white-sand beaches were affected by the spill Wednesday.
Authorities said 34 US tons (30 metric tons) of oil were lost when containers slipped from the Pacific Adventurer cargo ship and punctured fuel stores in the hull as it rocked in Australia's rough eastern waters, where a cyclone stormed through for the past week.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said the spill was larger than reported but did not give a figure. Her office said they did not have actual numbers yet.