A Japanese-owned bulk carrier ship, MV Wakashio, has begun to spill oil off the coast of Mauritius a week after running aground.
The Indian Ocean island nation, located east of Madagascar and the French overseas territory of Réunion, has declared an “environmental state of emergency”. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has made an urgent plea to France for help, saying “our country doesn’t have the skills and expertise to re-float stranded ships.”
The ship is reported to have started leaking oil on Thursday with environmental minister Kavydass Ramano saying Mauritius is ”in an environmental crisis situation”. Mr Ramano has stated the government “is taking all necessary actions so as to contain the oil spill” and that “some 400 sea booms have been deployed to secure the sensitive areas.”
The MV Wakashio is believed to contain close to 4000 metric tonnes of oil.
Fishing minister Sudheer Maudhoo has said that “this is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind, and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem.” Fishing and tourism are integral parts of the Mauritian economy which has already suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a press release for Greenpeace Africa, senior environment and climate campaign manager Happy Khambule has underlined the environmental and economic dangers the spill threatens saying:
“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 dire consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food security and health.”
Mr Khambule went on to say: “Greenpeace Africa stands with affected Mauritian coastal communities and calls on the UN and all governments to support Mauritius’ cleaning efforts.”
Police in Mauritius have opened an inquiry into the incident.
featured image – Blue Bay – credit: Lukas von Daenikin (wikimedia)