Antarctic alert over whaler fire

A Japanese whaling ship on fire and adrift in the Southern Ocean has raised fears of an environmental disaster if it leaks oil or chemicals into the waters off Antarctica.

The Nisshin Maru sent out a distress call early Thursday after fire broke out on the ship in the Ross Sea, Al Jazeera reported maritime officials in New Zealand as saying.

The fire, fuelled in part by whale oil, had been contained below deck and the Japanese crew were waiting for it to burn itself out, said Maritime New Zealand.

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photo by Óli Jón