10/12/11 (AEIN) The container ship "Rena" that crashed into a reef off New Zealand has spilled at least 350 tons of oil so far and developed a large crack on one side. Concerns have been raised that the vessel may break in half and release additional large quantities of oil into the ocean, according to Radio Australia.
The leaking oil has blackened beaches in Tauranga, N.Z. and harmed aquatic animals. Maritime New Zealand reported on Wednesday that two-hundred dead birds were found, while a number of oil-coated birds and seals were taken into care. Two-hundred and fifty people are working to clean the beaches.
The ship was transporting at least 1,300 containers and 1,700 tons of oil, according to a press release issued by Prime Minister John Key's office on Wednesday. Poor weather conditions have slowed the salvage efforts involving pumps and tug boats. The random movement of on-board containers adds to the danger.
Maritime New Zealand issued a warning to other ships in the area on Tuesday. It cautioned that loose containers from the "Rena" could create a hazard at sea. It was confirmed on Wednesday that some containers had fallen overboard. Tauranga is located on the northern coast of North Island.