Freighter oozing more oil

Salvage experts finally reached the grounded and broken up freighter Selendang Ayu during a long-awaited break in weather Sunday and found the ship is in worse shape than they had hoped for.
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Both halves of the wreck have settled; their bottoms appear to be collapsing. A second large fuel tank was breached and thought to be leaking viscous bunker oil, adding to a spreading spill. A load of soybeans is drifting away.
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At least one of the ship's main fuel tanks split open, releasing more than 140,000 gallons of heavy oil known as "bunker C." Goopy and brown, it has coated beaches in Skan Bay. Still on board could be as much as 300,000 gallons more.
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Since the grounding, winds have rarely dropped below 25 mph and have gusted to 60 mph or more. Exposed to the Bering Sea, the ship has been pounded by waves as high as 35 feet.
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But in Sunday's relative calm, a Coast Guard helicopter lowered three salvage experts onto the aft section of the broken hull. The two halves were parallel as recently as Saturday. By Sunday, the broken end of the bow section had swung toward the stern half.
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The inspectors were lowered by a basket to the ship's bridge. They reported the vessel rolled slightly as waves slammed it, and photographs show it has settled several feet, even as it rests on the rocky bottom. The hull is likely collapsing under its own weight and the rocking motion.
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The engine room was flooded, suggesting it was breached. Air surged in and out of a major fuel tank vent, suggesting that water had infiltrated it. One of the two remaining tanks appeared intact, but the other could not be checked.
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The inspectors found soybeans drifting out of at least one cargo hold. A second was wet, while a third looked dry.
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They couldn't get on the bow half, but it also looks lower in the water.
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New estimates suggest less oil was on board than was previously thought. Officials now believe the ship carried 424,000 gallons of bunker oil and 18,000 gallons of diesel.
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The inspections will help determine how to proceed with the wreckage and oil removal.
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Overflights spotted more oil in Skan and Makushin bays. An Unalaska-based vessel with cleanup equipment purchased after the last major grounding also took advantage of the weather. The Redeemer set out more protective booms around salmon streams and estuaries and was expected to skim some free-floating oil in Makushin Bay.
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A second ship with skimming capability and carrying spill workers and biologists was expected to reach the site today.

Go to www.adn.com for pictures.
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Go to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Alaska - External Affairs for updates.
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Go to the State of Alaska's Prevention and Emergency Response Program website.