New Zealand watching coastal oil spill

Oct. 10, 2011 at 9:06 AM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Responders in New Zealand said bad weather was hampering efforts to get oil out of a container ship that struck a reef in the Bay of Plenty.

Officials in New Zealand warned residents to avoid the Bay of Plenty after oil washed ashore almost a week after the freighter Rena hit a reef. More than 10 tons of oil were pumped out of the vessel, though more than 1,700 tons remained on board, The Guardian newspaper in London reports.

Maritime New Zealand, the agency handling the salvage operation, said it should take less than two days to get the remaining oil off the ship once operations resume. New Zealand officials have said there were about a dozen cargo containers believed to hold potentially hazardous materials on the ship.

A charter boat captain told the British newspaper, after viewing the Rena, that the response could be "too little, too late."

Maritime New Zealand said Monday it understood the frustration over the response to oil washing up on the shore.

"If we rush to clean all the oil off the beach now we will just be back there in a few hours to do it again, which isn't the best use of our resources," the agency said in a statement. "It is more effective to wait until it accumulates and remove it all together."

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