A terrifying environmental calamity has engulfed the Solomon Islands after a bulk carrier ran aground in last month’s cyclone Oma, threatening the future of a sensitive UNESCO World Heritage site.

The government of the small island nation has demanded urgent assistance in controlling the spill, which has already leaked over 80 tons of oil into the sea and surrounding shoreline and continues to gush into the nearby coral reef, causing a devastating impact on the environmentally sensitive region.

On February 5, the Hong Kong-flagged Solomon Trader, built in 1994, was loading bauxite from a mine on Rennell Island before the cyclone sank the ship onto a coral reef.

 

Over 660 tons of oil remain on board the leaking vessel along with the ship’s full load of bauxite, the key ore used to make aluminum. The ship was chartered with Indonesian company Bintan Mining Solomon Islands Limited, but its ownership remains unclear.