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RENA Splits and Stern Sinks Three Months After Grounding on New Zealand Reef

During a storm this past weekend, Greek-owned, Liberian-flagged container ship RENA split in half, and on December 9 her stern sunk and is for the most part submerged, taking about 100 tons of fuel and hundreds of large cargo containers with her. The bow remains lodged on Astrolabe Reef, which is about fourteen miles from New Zealand, where RENA originally wrecked on October 5, 2011. Damage to beaches and wildlife from the resulting estimated 350 metric ton oil spill in October created the worst environmental disaster on record for New Zealand.

Since October until this weekend, crews had removed over 100 tons of fuel and nearly 400 20- and 40-foot cargo containers, full mainly of milk powder, paper, lumber, and plastics. Further work became too dangerous and was halted when the storm arose. When RENA split in half during the weekend storm, another 150 or so of the remaining cargo containers slipped into the ocean.

With this new development, lumber, debris, and what looks like an oil sheen can now be seen all around the reef. Island Air pilot, David Yeo, describes the scene near the sinking as "carnage." Containers and products that continue to wash onto shore are considered potentially hazardous, so locals have been warned not to take or consume any of it. Clean-up and wildlife response crews are ready for when the spilled oil and more debris reaches shorelines.

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