Thousands of volunteers have joined the clean-up operation in New Zealand following an oil spill from a stricken cargo ship.
Salvage crews have had to wait to pump hundreds of tonnes from the Greek-owned, Liberian-flagged Rena before it breaks up offshore.
Emergency teams aided by international experts are preparing for more oil onshore, although less washed up on Saturday than on previous days.
“If the wind is taking it onto the sea, it will take it in the sea to different locations and we found over the last couple of days that places where we have had oil, the next day it’s actually quite clean because the water is moving out, with the current that moved it progressively down the beach. But generally speaking every low tide the oil is left on the beach which gets us an opportunity to get in there and clean up,” said Todd Graham from Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority.
From one of the affected beaches, euronews correspondent Cécile Skovron-Mathy said:
“350 tonnes of oil have already landed on the region’s beaches. The big pools of oil have disappeared for the moment but there are still many small deposits to pick up. A painstaking task for the thousands who’ve offered to volunteer. The clean-up has only just begun”.
The sea is extremely important to tourism in the Bay of Plenty on the North Island’s eastern coast. Normally people flock there to go surfing, fishing or dolphin watching.
But the port in Tauranga is deathly quiet; its businesses under threat. Blue Ocean Charters has been established there since 1938 but is now preparing to up sticks for another port.
“Now no-one is going to be coming here and all charters are cancelled and all our trips are cancelled, the only phone calls we are getting are people willing to cancel their fishing trips, so we just don’t really have a choice: if we stay here we get bankrupt, so we have to move,” said Russell Ensor from the company.
Local and government agencies are working on possible subsidies to help affected businesses, amid fears that many will go bust.
The cargo ship’s captain and another crew member, both from the Philippines, have been charged and remanded on bail, accused of operating the vessel in a dangerous manner.