Rena salvage on as waves pound wreck

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(AAP) The stern section of the cargo ship Rena is 97 per cent under water and the salvage is on hold as heavy seas continue to smash the stricken ship off the coast of Tauranga.

Bay of Plenty residents are being warned to prepare for fresh oil and debris to wash ashore after another spell of rough weather further pounds the wreckage, six months after it ran onto Astrolabe reef.

On Wednesday the stern section, which split from the bow in January, finally sunk after waves as high as 12 metres hammered it this week.

The damaged forward section remains on Astrolabe Reef.

Matthew Watson, spokesman for salvage company Svitzer, told Radio New Zealand on Thursday the stern section slipped 75 per cent under water in January but was now much further down the reef – about 97 per cent under water.

Salvors would fly over the wreck on Thursday morning to assess what had happened, but it would be impossible to work on salvaging the remaining containers in such heavy seas.

“The salvors won’t be going anywhere near the Rena while the swells are so large. It is just too dangerous and difficult.

“We are at the mercy of Mother Nature.”

The ship was carrying 1368 containers when it ran aground and so far 683 – nearly half – have either been removed from the ship or recovered from the sea.

Conditions are not likely to settle any time soon to allow salvage to resume.

The MetService has a coastal gale warning for the Bay of Plenty. It is predicting winds of 20 knots and a moderate sea for Thursday.

An Auckland to Tauranga yacht race on Thursday was cancelled over concerns about debris from Rena in the water.

NZN 2012

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