An ecological disaster is unfolding in Mauritius, as fuel continues to spill from a bulk carrier that struck a reef off the southeast coast.
The Panamanian-flagged MV Wakashio, operated by Japan’s Mitsui OSK Lines, struck a reef on the southeastern shores of the island nation on July 25. Local reports give the location of the crash as Pointe d’Esny; an area popular for its pristine white-sand beaches.
Fuel began leaking from the vessel on August 6, and 1,000 tonnes of oil and diesel are now estimated to have emptied into the surrounding ocean. While 500 tonnes of fuel have been removed from the vessel, there are a further 2,500 tonnes on board.
At a press conference held in Tokyo after the crash, vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines Akihiko Ono said: “We apologise profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” adding the company “will do everything in our power to resolve the issue.”
Officials and conservationists say an ecological disaster is unfolding in the pristine waters that surround the island nation, including the Blue Bay Marine Park, with thousands of species at risk. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of national environmental emergency on August 7, and France has pledged to send assistance from nearby Reunion Island. Japan is dispatching a six-person disaster-relief team.
In recent days, local volunteers have been patrolling the coastline, attempting to fabricate floating barriers from plastic bottles, sugar cane leaves, and straw, in an attempt to prevent the slick from causing further damage.
Mauritius, a country of 1.3 million that relies heavily on tourism and has been heavily impacted by Covid, has appealed to the United Nations for aid.
Local NGO Eco-Sud is collecting funds to provide emergency relief and protection of the lagoon. Details can be found at: www.crowdfund.mu/mauritius-oil-spill-cleaning-2020-mv-wakashio-306.html