AFP-Getty Images
Chinese officials remove some of the algae smothering beaches and extending out several hundred feet into the Yellow Sea off Qingdao, the site of the 2008 Olympic sailing events.
updated 6/30/2008 10:21:38 AM ET 2008-06-30T14:21:38

Officials say they need at least two weeks to clear an algal bloom threatening Olympic sailing events in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao.

More than 10,000 workers and volunteers are struggling to remove algae covering 32 percent of the coastal sea area set aside for the sailing events, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, quoting local officials at a Sunday news conference.

Although it poses no health threat, the algae has at times blocked sailing routes, complicating preparations for the events to be held Aug. 9-21. The cleanup is expected to be completed by July 15, Xinhua quoted the officials as saying.

The algae alert comes as Beijing and other cities hosting Olympic events make their final preparations for the Aug. 8-24 Games. Sailors from 30 countries and regions have already arrived in Qingdao to begin training, according to Xinhua.

The blue-green algae blossomed around June 1 in waters off Qingdao on the coast of Shandong province about 400 miles southeast of Beijing. Its bright green strands have smothered beaches, forcing swimmers to clear a path with their hands up to several hundred feet from the coast.

Blue-green algae blooms when nutrients, sometimes caused by excessive pollution, build up in water.

However, Wang Shulian, vice director of city's Ocean and Fishing Bureau, told reporters the outbreak had no "substantial link" to environmental conditions or water quality.

AFP-Getty Images
Volunteers help in the clean up Monday in Qingdao, China.
"The algae is of various sorts, which will prosper under satisfying temperature and salinity of sea water," Wang, whose bureau is overseeing the cleanup, was quoted as saying. Calls Monday to the bureau were not answered.

In all, the algae is blooming over an area of 5,000 square miles, Xinhua said. While 100,000 tons has already been removed, steps were also being taken to block more algae from floating into the area, the report said.

Environmental problems have posed some of the biggest last-minute concerns, particularly Beijing's dust and filthy air, compounded by expected torrid heat and humidity in August.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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