Coastal erosion uncovers oil buried on Gorleston beach in 1978

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Media captionCoastal erosion uncovers oil on beach

Coastal erosion is to blame for exposing oil that was buried on a Norfolk beach almost 40 years ago, a council leader has said.

It appeared on Saturday along a mile of beach between Gorleston and Hopton.

The oil was originally washed ashore from a tanker, the Eleni V, which sank off the coast in 1978.

Graham Plant, from Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said about a metre of sand had been eroded but the oil would be covered again once the tide turned.

Image caption Oil has been exposed on parts of the beach for about a mile of the coast between Gorleston and Hopton

More than 5,000 tonnes of fuel was washed up along a 20-mile stretch of the east coast when the Greek-registered ship got into difficulties and then capsized after colliding with the bulk carrier Roseline.

Some of the oil was taken to landfill sites but oil which could not be accessed by machinery was removed by hand and buried in trenches at the back of beaches, which the council said was the government's approved method of disposal at the time.

Image caption The oil came from the stricken tanker Eleni V

Warning signs

Three of the trenches were exposed on Saturday after two days of stormy weather.

"A thin layer of fine oil residue from these trenches has been deposited along the shoreline at Gorleston beach," a council spokesman said.

A tractor is to be brought in to skim the worst of the oil off the beach.

Image caption The Eleni V was blown up by the army in June 1978

"The borough council will continue to monitor the situation. Providing there are no further severe storms the trenches are expected to be covered again by sand within the next few days," the spokesman said.

"This is not a significant quantity of oil, however people are advised to keep away from the water's edge until the work has been completed to avoid getting oil on their shoes, clothing and pets," he added.

Warning signs were erected at Gorleston seafront at the weekend.

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