PORT LOUIS (Reuters) – Fuel rushing from a Japanese bulk seller that ran aground on a reef in Mauritius two weeks ago is creating an ecological disaster, endangering corals, fish and other marine life around the Indian Ocean island, officials and environmentalists say. .
FILE PHOTO: A satellite image shows the bulk carrier MV Wakashio and its oil spills after it ran aground off Mauritius̵
MV Wakashio, owned by Nagashiki Shipping Company, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25.
On Thursday, the government said fuel was leaking from a crack in the ship’s hull and Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency and asked for international help.
“The sinking of #Wakashio represents a danger to Mauritius,” Jugnauth said.
The environmental group Greenpeace said the spill would probably be one of the most terrible ecological crises Mauritius has ever seen.
“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, with serious consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food safety and health,” Greenpeace said in a statement.
Satellite images released on Friday showed a narrow spread out into the turquoise waters surrounding the affected ship. Some fuel has washed ashore.
France sent special teams and equipment to help Mauritius deal with the spill, said French President Emmanuel Macron.
A French military aircraft from the neighboring island of Reunion, a French overseas territory, carrying pollution control equipment would make two flights over the spill site on Saturday. A ship with barriers and absorbents would also sail, the authorities at Reunion said.
“When biodiversity is at stake, there is an urgent need to act,” Macron said. “You can count on our support.”
Nagashiki Shipping Company said it had tried to release
the tanker but the effort is hampered by persistent bad weather.
“We will do our utmost to cooperate with the Mauritius authorities and relevant Japanese organizations to recharge the oil still in the ship, clean up spills and safely remove the ship,” Nagashiki said in a statement.
The tanker is 299.5 meters long and 50 meters wide and has a crew of 20, it is said. It is flagged in Panama with Okiyo Marine, a subsidiary of Nagashiki Shipping, listed as the owner.
It is based on what the Ministry of the Environment has described as a sensitive zone with the leaking fuel that spreads a black spot in the azure water that endangers the diverse marine life that attracts tourists from all over the world.
Videos published on social media showed residents nearby where the ship was grounded and dipped sticks in the sea that glistened with the black spot on the spilled oil.
Mauritius, known for its pristine beaches, is popular with tourists who last year contributed 63 billion Mauritius rupees ($ 1.6 billion) to the economy.
Additional reporting by Omar Mohammed in Nairobi, Richard Lough in Paris and Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Editing Angus MacSwan