Salvage teams in New Zealand are risking their lives on board the shipwrecked Rena container vessel.
A large crack in the hull shows just how close the ship is to breaking up, and with every large swell the weight of the vessel, half on Astrolabe Reef, and half in the water, puts extra strain on it.
All the salvage team is thinking of, however, is saving the Bay of Plenty from further pollution.
“Every time we’ve set a forecast for pumping the oil off the weather’s changed. So we’re taking every day as it comes. We’re actually planning that we’re ready to go, regardless of what the weather is,” said Salvage Operation Unit Manager Bruce Anderson.
It cannot come too soon for the formerly pristine beaches, whose white sands are clotted with 300 tonnes of toxic oil, and face the threat of hundreds more if the Rena’s fuel tanks rupture.
Nearly 100 containers are also in the water or beached, some containing hazardous products. One reportedly contains materials that explode on contact with water.
Cleanup crews are now raking the shoreline, and a worried local population is having to be dissuaded from joining in due to the potential dangers. Instead they are being invited to use a volunteer’s hotline.