Panic After Stranded Ship Leaks Large Amounts Of Oil In Sea

Pablo Tucker
August 11, 2020

Environmentalists in Mauritius, an island country in the Indian Ocean, say they are "expecting the worst" in a race to drain an estimated 2,500 tons of oil from a stricken Japanese ship before it breaks in half and further pollutes the sea. Empty drums are also used to scoop oil from the shallower areas. "We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued", said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, a non-governmental organisation. He stated that the oil spill is a danger to Mauritius' 1.3 million citizens, who heavily rely on tourism already hurt by the restrictions on travel from the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers worked to prevent more of the oil from spilling; however, rough seas and high winds last Sunday reportedly caused new cracks on the hull of the ship.

On 30th July, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Mauritius counterparty Pravind Jugnauth virtually inaugurated the new Supreme Court Building, which was built with India's assistance.

The dry bulk carrier MK Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef on July 25, and last week satellite images showed it starting to leak some of the almost 4,000 mt of fuel on board.

Thousands of volunteers, many smeared head-to-toe in black sludge, have turned out along the coast since Friday, stringing together miles of improvised floating barriers made of straw in a desperate attempt to hold back the oily tide. France sent a navy ship, military aircraft and technical advisers after Mauritius appealed for global help Friday. Hairdressers in the town of Mahebourg have been collecting hair trimmings from various salons, which are being stuffed into nylon stockings to create additional oil booms.

"People have realized that they need to take matters into their own hands to protect wildlife", Ashok Subron, an environmental activist from the nearby city of Mahébourg, told AFP. Many environmental organizations, such as Greenpeace, are therefore concerned about the impact the spill could have on Mauritius' biodiversity. "Helicopters are taking out the gasoline little by little, ton by ton".

Mauritius' prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, declared a state of emergency and asked for global help on Friday. Japan has also said it will send a six-member team to help with relief efforts.

The island nation does not have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships.

"Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d'Esny, and Mahébourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius' economy, food security, and health", Greenpeace Africa's Climate and Energy Manager Happy Khambule said in a statement.

Mitsui O.S.K. and Nagashiki Shipping have not said how much cleanup efforts are expected to cost.

Local police reportedly obtained a search warrant and are conducting an investigation with the help of the ship's captain.

. Soon after, oil was observed spilling from the vessel.

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