In a major ecological disaster, a grounded ship off the coast has been leaking tonnes of crude oil into the clear waters of Mauritius. Clean-up crews and volunteers have been trying to contain the disaster by cordoning the oil from spreading towards the island, but still in vain.
On July 25, the MV Wakashio ship's hull struck a coral reef off the island. The ship has been grounded since then, but it began leaking oil over the past few days.
Of about 4,000 tonnes of oil that the ship had, at least 1,000 tonnes is thought to have seeped into the Indian Ocean waters near Mauritius.
Massive oil spill in #Mauritius with #Wakashio carrier owned by Nagashiki Shipping pouring 4000 Tonnes of bunker fuel in our ocean. URGENT HELP Needed @OilSpillTF @oilspillexperts @damanaki @narendramodi @rkyte365 #Japan @SongweVera @_AfricanUnion @BBCWorld @andersen_inger pic.twitter.com/ZhrxrrA3zZ— Yuvan A. Beejadhur (@YuvanBeejadhur) August 6, 2020
There have been persistent attempts to stabilise the vessel and pump out the remaining fuel, but without success so far. According to local authorities, rough seas could further rupture the tanker.
Experts have warned that the damage caused to the coastal ecosystem could also impact its economy. Residents of Mauritius mainly depend on its seas for food and tourism. It has always maintained its reputation as a conservation success.
The oil spill, however, now threatens to permanently damage the marine ecosystem of one of the top global destinations for nature lovers.
Against instructions from local authorities, local volunteers are helping in containment efforts by using absorbent barriers made of straw-stuffed into fabric sacks that could potentially contain and absorb the oil. The dense sludge is spreading to the thriving lagoons, aquatic habitats and white-sand beaches in the archipelago as attempts at containing the disaster have failed, Firstpost reported.
Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared the spill an "environmental emergency" and called for international help to contain the damage. France sent a naval vessel, military aircraft and technical experts from the nearby French island of Reunion.
The Prime Minister has reportedly convened a crisis committee meeting to plan for the forecast of bad weather. Ecologists have also warned that the potential damage to the coastline and the economy of the island nation could be catastrophic if the ship breaks.
Nagashiki Shipping Company owns the MV Wakashio and Japanese transport company Mitsui OSK Lines operates it. Mitsui said that efforts at placing its own containment booms around the vessel have failed, owing to rough seas.
We don't know the full extent of the harm yet, so we don't know what such payments would even look like," Kiyoaki Nagashiki, President of Nagashiki Shipping Company told Asian Review.
"We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused," Akihiko Ono, executive vice president at Mitsui said in a news conference.