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What's causing the sea off Kuantan beach to turn red?

The waters off the coast of Kuantan are running red following a severe downpour that went on for more than 24 hours after it began on Sunday (Dec 27).

Beachgoers and residents of Pahang's capital city were shocked when they arrived at the beach on Tuesday (Dec 29) only to be greeted by red seawater from the South China Sea.

Restaurant owner Ahmad Zawawi Mustaffa told The Star that the oddly-coloured water spooked visiting tourists, who quickly made a hasty retreat.

Trader Anita Awang said her husband thought the phenomenon was caused by sand that had been stirred up by the torrential rainfall.

However, the 38-year-old said that when she ran her hand through the water, "it was really red, not gritty grey like when it's sand".

The discoloured seawater is allegedly the result of rainwater washing dust from bauxite mines into rivers that feed the sea.

Kuantan has seen a rise in mining activity for bauxite, which is an ore used for obtaining aluminium.

According to The New Straits Times, Malaysia's Environment Department is conducting a probe to determine the source of the contamination.

In November 2012, the waters off the coast of Sydney in south eastern Australia were dyed a bright red.

The colour was determined to be caused by a red algae bloom which glowed bright blue at night, reported AFP.

An algae bloom is a natural phenomenon that occurs when algae flourish in one particular area.

Back then, the Sydney South Coast and Hunter Regional Algal Coordinating Committees said the blooms typically occur as a result of currents bringing cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface.

While an algae bloom contains toxins that can irritate skin, it is not harmful to humans.

Nonetheless, Sydney's beaches were closed as a precaution before re-opening three days later.


A swimmer swims near a red algae bloom off Clovelly Beach in Sydney in Novermber 2012. PHOTO: AFP

Sources: The Star Online, New Straits Times, AFP

malaysiapahangUncategorisedEnvironmentSouth China Sea