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New Zealand wants answers for oil spill

Rena hit a reef in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty last Wednesday
Rena hit a reef in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty last Wednesday Reuters

Crews scrambled to off-load oil from a stranded container ship in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty on Sunday. Risky weather conditions, including possible gale-force winds, threatened to slow down the operation. The spill has already leaked 20 tonnes of oil into the pristine waters since it ran aground on Wednesday.


Officials worry that if the 1,700 tonnes of oil still left on board Rena are not emptied, the ship could break up and sink, potentially causing New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster in decades.

The vessel should be emptied within two days, according to officials.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key is asking for answers as to how the ship managed to hit a reef in calm waters. Key flew over the scene on Sunday to witness the 12 nautical miles affected by the spill.

The area is home to whales, dolphins, penguins and seals. A number of seabirds have already been killed by the toxic sludge.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) said the operation was making “good progress on a number of fronts” by the end of the day on Sunday.

They hope to contain most of the oil before it leaks to the coastline, although the MNZ said it was impossible to avoid at least some oil reaching the coast. Officials predict that oil could make it to land as early as Wednesday.

Around 250 people have joined the response team, including specialists from Australia, Britain, Holland and Singapore. Defence personnel are on standby in case a shoreline cleanup is necessary.


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