Mauritius declares oil spill emergency: thousands of species in danger

A satellite image shows the ship MV Wakashio and its oil spill after it crashed off the southeast coast of Mauritius, August 7, 2020. Satellite image: Maxar Technologies/Reuters
A satellite image shows the ship MV Wakashio and its oil spill after it crashed off the southeast coast of Mauritius, August 7, 2020. Satellite image: Maxar Technologies/Reuters

Fuel spilling from a Japanese ship that crashed into a reef in Mauritius two weeks ago is creating an ecological disaster, endangering corals, fish and other marine life around the Indian Ocean island.

“The Japanese bulk carrier, MV Wakashio ran aground around July 25 and is now leaking tonnes of diesel and oil into the ocean,” Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager, said in a statement.

“Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution.” They added that the current oil spill is likely one of the most terrible ecological crises ever seen on the small island country. 

On Thursday, Mauritius said fuel was leaking from a crack in the vessel. Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency and pleaded for international help.

Satellite images released on Friday showed an oil slick spreading out into the turquoise waters surrounding the vessel. Some fuel has washed ashore.

“The sinking of the #Wakashio represents a danger for Mauritius,” Jugnauth said in a tweet.

President Emmanuel Macron responded by saying France was sending help from the neighboring island of Reunion, a French overseas territory.

A French military aircraft carrying pollution-control equipment would make two flights over the spill site on Saturday. A naval vessel carrying booms and absorbents would also set sail, authorities on Reunion said.

Nagashiki Shipping Company owns The MV Wakashi. “We will do our utmost working with the Mauritius authorities and relevant Japanese organizations to offload the oil still in the ship, clean up the spill and safely remove the vessel,” Nagashiki said in a statement.


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