Storm Threatens New Zealand Oil Spill Site

Posted October 9th, 2011 at 9:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Salvage crews are scrambling to avert an environmental disaster in New Zealand's pristine Bay of Plenty, as a storm threatens to hit the area where a cargo ship ran aground on a reef Wednesday.

Salvage teams have installed covers designed to seal the ship's fuel tanks in case the container vessel breaks apart in heavy seas and sinks during the storm that is forecast for late Monday. They also moved the fuel from damaged tanks at the front of the vessel to more secure ones in the stern.

Oil from the damaged ship already has begun washing ashore and has killed several sea birds.

The Liberian-flagged container ship Rena, loaded with 1,700 tons of heavy fuel, got stuck on a reef near New Zealand's Tauranga coast Wednesday. None of the 25 crew members was injured, but the ship's hull suffered damage and pumps had to be used to remove water from the cargo area.

New Zealand health authorities have warned people not to eat seafood from the bay until further notice.