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Containership oil spill threatens New Zealand coastline

The New Zealand government have stated that the oil spill from a stricken tanker off the port of Tauranga has become the country’s worst environmental disaster.

The cargo ship Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe reef last Wednesday and has reportedly already leaked around 300 tonnes of oil.

Work is currently underway to pump the remaining oil off the ship before it can seep into the sea, however bad weather is hampering progress.

The New Zealand Environment Minister, Nick Smith, told a news conference that oil seeping from the ship’s hull had increased ‘fivefold’ since the ship ran aground.

He stated:

"It is my view that the tragic events we are seeing unfolding were absolutely inevitable from the point that the Rena ran onto the reef in the early hours of Wednesday morning," he said.

"The government is determined to throw everything possible at minimising the environmental harm of what is now clear to be New Zealand's worst environmental disaster in many decades."

The heavy oil has already started washing up on nearby beaches and there are fears that if the weather worsens the ship my break up completely and so spill all the 1,700 tonnes of fuel it holds into the ocean.

Oil dispersants are being used, but big swells are hampering progress. All local beaches have been closed, and residents warned not to touch the globs of oil. Around 300 military personnel are on standby to clean up beaches when the worst of the oil hits.

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