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Rennell Island, the largest elevated coral atoll on the planet and partly recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is threatened by the fuel spill of a stranded freighter, confirm official sources today.
The “Solomon Trader” ship, which contained some 700 tons of heavy fuel and loaded with bauxite, ran aground on February 5 in Kangava Bay, on the island in the south of the Solomon Islands, during the passage of cyclone Oma.
“The spill expands five to six kilometers along the coast and travels to the adjacent area of the World Heritage zone” of Rennel Oriental, the Australian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“There is a high risk that the remaining heavy fuel in the ship (estimated in more than 600 tons) will be released in the surrounding area,” adds the letter from Australia, a country that helps the government of the Solomon Islands in the response to the emergency.
The government of New Zealand, meanwhile, plans to send two experts with the aim of collaborating in the work to unload the freighter, which trapped in a rocky area could cause a major catastrophe.
The Indonesian company Bintan Mining Solomon Islands Limited, which hired the ship – 225 meters in length and with the flag of Hong Kong – denies any responsibility for the accident, according to the Australian edition of the Guardian newspaper.
Rennel Oriental, declared a World Heritage Site in 1998, entered Unesco’s list of World Heritage in 2013 in danger due to excessive logging, partly corporate responsibility like Indonesia.
This remote spot, attractive for the ecotourism circuit, occupies a third of the 87,500 hectares of Rennell Island, the southernmost island territory of the Solomon Islands, and extends around Lake Tegano (“Great water” in the language native)
The Tegano is the largest lake in the Pacific Islands and contains a large number of limestone islets and endemic species such as sea snakes.
Rennell Oriental also hosts dense forests with foliage up to 20 meters high and has more than a thousand species, many of them endemic, among which are a large number of bats, birds, snails and insects, in addition to Hundreds of plants and flowers.
Some of these animals have been included in the red list of endangered species of Unesco, as is the case of Rennell flying bat, classified as vulnerable.
Source: La Vanguardia