REDONDO BEACH (AP) — A natural disaster became a man-made disaster Friday when thousands of dead sardines that perished in a huge, unexplained die-off spilled onto a Southern California freeway as they were being hauled to a composting center.
A truck driver somehow dropped the slimy, reeking fish around 3:30 p.m. on Interstate 215 in the Riverside County city of Colton, California Highway Patrol dispatch supervisor Sabrina Devina said.
Devina said she didn’t know exactly how the spill occurred and explained that because no other vehicle was involved an accident investigator was not dispatched to the scene.
The sardines spread across three northbound lanes, causing traffic to back up for miles until crews armed with hand shovels were able to scoop up the fish nearly three hours later. Southbound traffic also slowed as drivers braked to look at the stinky mess.
The sardines died late Monday when they became stuck at a marina at King Harbor in Redondo Beach and apparently suffocated when they depleted the oxygen in the water. Crews have been scrambling to scoop and vacuum tons of fish before the smell became any worse, but they suspended the cleanup Friday when a tsunami surge from Japan’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake swept along the West Coast.
The water rose 3 feet in eight minutes at King Harbor and then quickly fell. The surge didn’t flush away many more fish that remain on the surface of the harbor.
The sardines were being trucked to a composting center in Victorville, where they were going to be buried and be ready for use as fertilizer in 90 to 120 days.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)