New Zealand stricken ship Rena emptied of oil

The Rena, grounded off New Zealand, leaking oil and listing badly - 15 October 2011
Image caption There were fears the Rena could break apart in bad weather

Salvage teams have pumped all of the oil out of a cargo ship stranded off New Zealand, officials say.

The Rena, which got stuck on a reef and was in danger of breaking apart, initially leaked 350 tonnes of oil, killing more than 1,000 sea birds.

Salvage operations had been hampered by bad weather, and there were fears of a widespread environmental disaster.

But Maritime New Zealand said it had now finished pumping oil and would send in a crane to remove the cargo.

There are still about 1,300 containers to be removed from the ship, which will also be moved off the reef.

Disbelief to relief

Stuart Crosby, mayor of the city of Tauranga, said the result was tremendous.

"The salvors have done an amazing job under treacherous conditions to avoid an environmental disaster," he said, according to the New Zealand Herald.

"I guess we've all gone through a series of emotions that we all do in this type of event. There has been disbelief, frustration, anger, and now relief - relief that the oil has been taken away by these great people."

The Greek-owned and Liberian-flagged cargo ship ran aground on 5 October on Astrolabe Reef, 22km (14 miles) from Tauranga Harbour on New Zealand's North Island.

The region, the Bay of Plenty, is popular for its long, sandy beaches and abundant wildlife, including rare sea birds, penguins and dolphins.

Environmentalists had warned of disaster if all 1,700 tonnes of oil and 200 tonnes of diesel originally held on board spilled from the vessel.

The ship's Philippine captain and second officer have been charged over the incident.

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