Mauritius declares environmental emergency over oil spill

Rodiano Bonacci
Agosto 13, 2020

Salvage crews have been racing against time to prevent a second disastrous oil spill off the picture-perfect coastline of Mauritius, with a damaged tanker carrying thousands of tonnes of fuel at risk of splitting apart.

The once-idyllic azure waters of Mauritius are running a deathly black after a ship ran aground leaking tons of oil into the ocean.

Japan said yesterday it would send a six-member expert team to assist, joining France which dispatched a naval vessel and military aircraft from nearby Reunion Island after Mauritius issued an appeal for global help.

The Mauritius government has said that police are now investigating the spill.

Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Jugnauth said that the oil spill presents a danger and he has had to ask France for assistance because the island nation of 1.3million people doesn't have the expertise to re-float stranded ships. Volunteers transported baby turtles and protected plants from the nearby Ile aux Aigrettes, as experts feared they could be killed by the spill.

The location of the leaking oil is near a tourist destination and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

At their first news conference since the crash, the officials said they had sent experts to Mauritius to join the cleanup effort.

In the event of major rains, it stated, assistance might be obtained from several other Indian Ocean countries or by global oil spill response associations.

An aerial view shows leaked oil from MV Wakashio on August 6, 2020. The vessel ran aground near Blue Bay Marine Park off the coast of southeast Mauritius on July 25.

University students and members of the local Lions and Rotary clubs are among the volunteers, he said. "The booms are really working in many spots".

Jugnauth is also said to have convened a crisis committee meeting to plan for the forecast of bad weather, which could further complicate efforts to stem the spill from any further structural damage to the vessel.

"The coral reefs had begun to regenerate and the lagoon was getting back its coral gardens", Dowarkasing said. "Now this might all be killed again by the oil spill".

There is help on the way from neighboring Reunion what is a French overseas territory and part of the Vanilla Island Group.

Drone images show vast amounts of oil leaking from a bulk carrier off Mauritius after it ran aground in the southeast of the island. "We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days", Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne warned. The atoll (a ring-shaped coral reef) is home to many endemic species, so this disaster could cause their extinction.

For days, locals watched as a salvage team worked around the tanker.

The MV Wakashio, owned by Japanese companies Okiyo Maritime Corporation and Nagashiki Shipping Co.

Some of the fuel onboard the ship was able to be removed by helicopter, but today's rough waves and heavy winds of up to 50km/h have exacerbated an already delicate clean-up situation. The companies promised to act in an environmentally responsible way and said they did not plan to use harmful chemicals in the cleanup operations.

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