Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has declared a state of emergency after a huge oil spill began blackening the turquoise waters off the shores of Mauritius, triggering an environmental crisis in the small Indian Ocean island nation.
The MV Wakashio, owned by the Nagashiki Shipping Company, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25, with nearly 4,000 tons of fuel oil and 200 tons of diesel on board, and no distress call was received by the National Coast Guard. 12 days after the event, it was found that the hull of the bulk carrier had cracked, leaking oil into the country’s famed blue lagoons.
“This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem,” said Sudheer Maudhoo, the Mauritian fishing minister.
The government of Mauritius is currently appealing to France for help, saying the spill “represents a danger” for the country of over 1.3 million people that relies heavily on its waters for fishing and tourism. Already under immense stress from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, experts state Mauritius is likely to experience an unprecedented state of crisis as the consequences of the oil spill unfold.
“Our country doesn’t have the skills and expertise to re-float stranded ships, so I have appealed for help from France and president Emmanuel Macron,” he said. “Bad weather has made it impossible to act, and I worry what could happen […] when the weather deteriorates.”
Currently, over 400 booms have been deployed to help contain the spill, and an 11-person team was sent to secure and stabilise the ship with little success as the cracked hull was deemed too dangerous.
Though the famed sea-diving destination does have a national oil spill contingency plan, the equipment on hand was only “adequate to deal with oil spills of less than 10 metric tonnes”. While Mauritius waits for France to swoop in and save the vessel in distress, locals are banding together and taking clean up efforts into their own hands in spite of warnings from officials.
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