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Business

Burst fuel pipe disrupts New Zealand flights

A rupture in the main pipeline carrying jet fuel to New Zealand's largest airport has disrupted the travel plans of thousands of people. Flight cancellations and delays are expected to continue for a week.

Auckland Airport spokeswoman Lisa Mulitalo said Monday that over 40 international and domestic flights had been canceled since Saturday due to low jet fuel supplies, with other flights having been delayed or rerouted.

The burst pipeline runs about 170 kilometers (106 miles) from an oil refinery to Auckland. A digger or other machinery appeared to have damaged the pipe, and then acid soil had corroded it further until it failed.

Operators said the company should be able to fix the pipe and have it functioning again by September 26 at the latest.

Big headache

The pipeline also carries diesel and gasoline, although shortages have been mostly felt by airlines.

New Zealand's military has stepped in to help by offering a naval tanker and truck drivers to transport fuel and by canceling planned military exercises with Singapore to help preserve fuel.

"It's been made very clear to all of those working on this that the government will commit whatever resources and efforts are required to get this sorted out as quickly as possible with a minimum of disruption," Energy and Resources Minister Judith Collins said in a statement.

"Aviation is a critical transport industry and the lifeblood for tourism, and we are naturally extremely disappointed with this infrastructure failure," Air News Zealand captain David Morgan added.

hg/jd (AP, Reuters)

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