Mauritius declare state of environmental emergency after huge oil spill

Rodiano Bonacci
Agosto 12, 2020

It's estimated that tanker ship, the Wakashio, which ran aground off the coast in late July, leaked 1,300 tons of crude oil into the ocean, and local media reported that the worst case scenario could see that increase to 4,300 tons.

France sent a navy ship, military aircraft and technical advisers after Mauritius appealed for worldwide help Friday, while Japan said it would send a six-member expert team to assist.

On Friday, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of emergency and appealed for help. For days, residents peered out at the precariously tilted ship as a salvage team arrived and began to work, but ocean waves kept battering the ship.

Conservationists said they were starting to find dead fish as well as seabirds covered in oil, increasing fears of an ecological catastrophe despite a massive local cleanup operation that includes making floating booms from leaves and human hair.

Cracks in the hull were detected a few days ago and the salvage team was quickly evacuated. Mitsui said it had tried to place its own containment booms around the vessel but had not been successful owing to rough seas.

"Our country doesn't have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships", he said. Bad weather has made it impossible to act, and I worry what could happen on Sunday when the weather deteriorates.

Heavy winds are expected to push the oil slick even farther along the mainland's shore. "Period. The coral reef affords protection in terms of sea levels rising, so there will be that problem that will rear up". More than 1,000 tonnes of fuel has aready washed up on the island nation's eastern coast.

It is grounded at what the ministry of the environment has described as a sensitive zone with the leaking fuel spreading a black stain in the azure water endangering the diverse marine life that attracts tourists from around the world.

John Bellamy Foster, who spoke in Mauritius in October 2019, warned that: "In terms of the coral reefs and all the dangers to the ecosystems, Mauritius is one of those countries most at risk".

Kavy Romano, the environment minister of Mauritius, said that the state is now in an environmental crisis.

The 300-meter-long bulk carrier, the Wakashio, struck the reef on July 25 on its way to Brazil from China via Singapore.

Police said yesterday they would execute a search warrant granted by a Mauritius court to board the Wakashio and seize items of interest, including the ship's log book and communication exchanges. Fuel started leaking from the cracked vessel on Thursday. Nagashiki Shipping added that it's working with Mauritian authorities "to mitigate the spill" and that "the primary focus at this time is. protecting the environment".

"That's the big question", Jean Hugues Gardenne with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation told The Associated Press. "But now we understand that it may be a waste of time to 'clean up" an area where oil may continue to flow in".

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