Crews are getting ready to pump some of the 1,700 metric tons of fuel aboard a cargo ship grounded off the coast of New Zealand, as gale-force wind and rain forecast for tomorrow threatens to break up the Liberian-flagged Rena and trigger an environmental disaster. "The top priority is to first remove the oil, then lighten the vessel by removing the containers, and finally, move the ship off the reef," said a statement by Maritime New Zealand, the agency in charge of the cleanup.
A barge is on the scene and ready to begin the two-day operation. The tanker ran aground Wednesday, and has been leaching oil, reports the AP. New Zealand's PM is demanding answers: "This is a ship that's plowed into a well documented reef in calm waters in the middle of the night at 17 knots. So, somebody needs to tell us why that's happened," John Key said. Greenpeace is in turn blasting New Zealand's response, calling it "stretched to its limits," and warning of a "potential disaster" for blue whales and dolphins calving in the area. (Read more New Zealand stories.)