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Rena Stern Photos: Rough New Zealand Waters Sink Half Of Wrecked Ship (VIDEO)

Posted: 04/ 4/2012 12:12 pm Updated: 04/ 4/2012 12:22 pm

The Rena Stern
The wrecked ship Rena's stern sunk in rough waters off the coast of New Zealand. (MARITIME NEW ZEALAND / AFP / GETTY )

Six months after running aground on the Astrolabe Reef off the coast of New Zealand's North Island, the stricken Rena ship just became an even greater disaster, as rough waters completely sank the ship's stern, Sky News reports.

According to The New Zealand Herald, waves of nearly 40 feet and winds up to 31 mph caused the ship's stern to shift and to succumb to the sea, though the bow remains above water. In January, the ship split in two, the Associated Press reports, which further complicated the environmental hazard posted to New Zealand.

Officials from Maritime New Zealand confirmed Wednesday that a light sheen of oil stretches for more than a half-mile northwest of the wreckage, and that oil spill response teams remain on alert in case further environmental hazards crop up.

When the Rena ran aground in October 2011, it held hundreds of tons of heavy fuel on board, many of which spilled from the hull, according to AP. Nick Smith, New Zealand's environment minister, called the wreck the country's biggest maritime environmental disaster, with dozens of birds turning up dead and clumps of oil washing ashore near Tuaranga.

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This handout picture released by Maritime New Zealand on April 4, 2012 shows the Monrovia-flagged container ship 'Rena' stuck on Astrolabe Reef as it is pounded by high seas off the coast of Tauranga. The stern of a broken-up ship that caused New Zealand's biggest sea pollution disaster sank on April 4 after waves of up to 12 metres (39 foot) pounded the wreck, officials said.

Filed by Ryan Craggs  |