Barrier Reef blasted to free stranded ship

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The Independent Online

The Queensland government was criticised yesterday for allowing salvagers to blow up part of the Great Barrier Reef in an attempt to free a Malaysian container ship.

The Queensland government was criticised yesterday for allowing salvagers to blow up part of the Great Barrier Reef in an attempt to free a Malaysian container ship.

Three coral outcrops on Australia's foremost natural wonder, a World Heritage site, were blasted. Environmentalists say sections of the marine park's sensitive ecosystem will take many years to recover.

The 21,000-ton Bunga Teratai Satu was 4.5 miles off course when she hit the reef east of Cairns, crushing coral and prompting fears that its toxic cargo of 132 tons of fungicides, pesticides, glycerol and polystyrene might spill. Two tries to dislodge it with tugs failed. With a passage blasted clear, an effort will be made to refloat it at high tide this morning.

The Queensland Transport Minister, Steve Brehauer, said the blasting was "carefully controlled trimming" and damage to the reef was minimal. "This is not a decision anyone likes to make, but it is the only way to get the ship free."

But the World Wide Fund for Nature said there were other options, such as removing cargo to lighten the load.

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