Oil Spill Worsens off New Zealand Coast

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 5:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The captain of a ship that is leaking heavy fuel oil, while caught on a reef off New Zealand's coast, has been arrested and will appear in court Wednesday.

The Liberian-flagged cargo ship Rena, loaded with about 700 tons of oil hit the reef off New Zealand's North Island on October 5. Maritime officials say the ship's condition is deteriorating due to high waves and strong winds, and about 70 containers fell overboard.

Officials said between 130 and 350 tons of oil gushed from the container vessel's ruptured hull during the past 24 hours in the Bay of Plenty.

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the oil spill from the 47,000-ton container vessel has created the worst environmental maritime disaster it New Zealand's history.

A salvage crew that was transferring oil from the Rena to another vessel had to be evacuated Tuesday because of the bad weather.

Health officials have ordered residents to stay off the beaches and out of the sea, and not to touch anything with oil on it.