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Mauritius oil leak – Race against time as ship could break in HALF spilling another 4,000 tonnes into Indian Ocean



THOUSANDS of people are battling to save Mauritius as a stricken Japanese ship could split in half and spew another 4,000 tonnes of toxic fuel into the Indian Ocean, fears the PM.

MV Wakashio’s captain and sailors have ended their 14-day coronavirus quarantine, and are now being interrogated by cops about running aground on a coral reef, says reports.

Still sinking: Japanese tanker MV Wakashio can be seen partly submerged after striking a reef at Pointe d'Esny

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Still sinking: Japanese tanker MV Wakashio can be seen partly submerged after striking a reef at Pointe d’EsnyCredit: AFP
Diesel and oil have leaked across Mauritius' pristine marine surroundings

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Diesel and oil have leaked across Mauritius’ pristine marine surroundingsCredit: EPA
Thousands of residents and environmental activists are battling time and tide to clear the horrific mess

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Thousands of residents and environmental activists are battling time and tide to clear the horrific messCredit: AFP
Fuel washing in with the tide - an environmental disaster for Mauritius

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Fuel washing in with the tide – an environmental disaster for MauritiusCredit: EPA

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Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said: “The boat can still break in two. 

“The cracks have developed. The situation is even more serious.”

He also told reporters: “Arrangements have been made so that the part which is already underwater is towed in case of breakage. 

“The part still out of the water must be stabilised because it is this which contains the bulk of the heavy oil load of the ship.”

Mauritius has declared a “state of environmental emergency” after the tanker leaked 1,000 tonnes of fuel into the Indian Ocean, devastating wildlife and pristine beaches.

Shocking satellite images show a dark slick oozing through the turquoise waters near environmentally sensitive areas after Wakashio struck a coral reef off the island nation on July 25.

As the deadly slick closed in, anxious locals stuffed sacks with leaves and created makeshift straw barriers to protect the famous honeymoon resort.

Thousands of students, environmental activists and Mauritius residents were working around the clock on Sunday, trying to reduce damage to the islands, that lie east of Madagascar.

It’s a tough task as they were mopping up the thick, sticky black gunge during high winds and rough seas – as reports came in of new cracks to the ship’s hull.

Photos of the determined volunteers show them covered in sludge.

An estimated one tonne of oil from the Japanese ship’s cargo of four tonnes has already leaked into the sea, officials said. 

Radio One in Mauritius reported that Wakashio’s captain and sailors will be quizzed on why they chose this particular route – given the delicate coastal environment used by 340 species of fish – after leaving China for Brazil.

The tanker struck a reef at Pointe d’Esny, which is an ecologically fragile area with internationally recognised wetlands.

The volcanic main island of Mauritius is ringed by coral reefs.

Mauritian officials have a search warrant, and a raid by agents from the Central Criminal Investigation Department (CCID) is imminent, the station added.

Oil can be seen leaching from the grounded vessel

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Oil can be seen leaching from the grounded vesselCredit: EPA
Mauritius declared a state of 'environmental emergency' after the accident - with the stricken Japanese bulk carrier in the foreground

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Mauritius declared a state of ‘environmental emergency’ after the accident – with the stricken Japanese bulk carrier in the foregroundCredit: Eric Villars/ Magnus News
Thick fuel is clogging up the once-pristine shoreline

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Thick fuel is clogging up the once-pristine shorelineCredit: AP:Associated Press
Above: The owners and operators of the grounded ship Wakashio on Sunday apologised for the accident

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Above: The owners and operators of the grounded ship Wakashio on Sunday apologised for the accidentCredit: Associated Press

PM Pravind Jugnauth said the spill “represents a danger” for the livelihoods of some 1.3 million people.

The islands rely heavily on tourism and have been been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Marine protected areas in Mauritius cover an extent of 28 sq miles (7190 hectares), including six fishing reserves and two marine parks.

Jugnauth told journalists that the boat’s documents and black boxes have been recovered, reports Le Xpress from Mauritius.

France revealed it is now sending specialist help from its nearby Reunion Island. Equipment is also being sent from Greece to help the clean-up operation.

The Mauritius government “is taking all necessary actions so as to contain the oil spill from the MV Wakashio and some 400 sea booms have been deployed to secure the sensitive areas,” said Environment Minister Kavydass Ramano.

The vessel has grounded in a very sensitive zone which includes the Blue Bay Marine Park, Iles aux Aigrettes, and the Ramsar sites.

The operator of the Japanese bulk carrier apologised on Sunday.

Japan is sending a six-person disaster relief team, on the request of the Mauritius government, to help with removing the spilt oil, according to a statement by the Japanese Foreign Ministry on Sunday.

“We apologise profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Akihiko Ono, executive vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines said at a news conference in Tokyo.

He added that the company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue”.

More than 1,000 tonnes oil are feared to have leaked from a Japanese ship off Mauritius

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More than 1,000 tonnes oil are feared to have leaked from a Japanese ship off MauritiusCredit: AFP or licensors
Volunteers making absorbent barriers of straw stuffed into fabric sacks to contain oil

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Volunteers making absorbent barriers of straw stuffed into fabric sacks to contain oilCredit: EPA
Thousands of people have banded together to save their way of life

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Thousands of people have banded together to save their way of lifeCredit: EPA
The large man-bade booms were carried carefully to the water

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The large man-bade booms were carried carefully to the waterCredit: EPA
The special straw and cloth booms are helping to soak up the leaking fuel

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The special straw and cloth booms are helping to soak up the leaking fuelCredit: EPA
The MV Wakashio's hull split after it hit a coral reef in the Indian Ocean on July 25

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The MV Wakashio’s hull split after it hit a coral reef in the Indian Ocean on July 25Credit: EPA
A still image taken from a drone video shows a cleanup crew working at the site of an oil spill 

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A still image taken from a drone video shows a cleanup crew working at the site of an oil spill Credit: Reuters
Local volunteers clean up oil washing up on the beach from the MV Wakashio

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Local volunteers clean up oil washing up on the beach from the MV WakashioCredit: EPA
The thick gunge is being poured into barrels before being removed from the coast

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The thick gunge is being poured into barrels before being removed from the coastCredit: EPA
Photos reveal the extent of the spill which is creating an ecological disaster

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Photos reveal the extent of the spill which is creating an ecological disasterCredit: AP:Associated Press
Mauritius says the merchant ship was carrying nearly 4,000 tons of fuel

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Mauritius says the merchant ship was carrying nearly 4,000 tons of fuel Credit: EPA

Mauritius says the ship was carrying nearly 4,000 tonnes of fuel when it became stuck.

Wildlife volunteers ferried dozens of baby tortoises and rare plants from an island near the area of spill – Ile aux Aigrettes – to the mainland.

Locals and environmentalists are now asking why the authorities didn’t act more quickly after the ship ran aground more than two weeks ago.

Fears are now growing that the worsening weather could tear the Japanese-owned ship apart along its cracked hull.

France said a military transport aircraft was carrying pollution control equipment to Mauritius and a navy vessel with additional material is to set sail for the island.

“When biodiversity is in peril, there is urgency to act,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted on Saturday.

Some 500 tonnes of oil have been salvaged from the ship, but thousands of tonnes remain, presenting a massive threat to the area’s marine life and the tourism industry dependent upon it.

The tanker was carrying both diesel and bunker fuel – which is used by maritime vessels.

Cracks in the hull were detected a few days ago and the salvage team was quickly evacuated.

Le Xpress reports that the smell of fuel oil is so overwhelming that it has terrified Intendant Laval Bangard, 70, who was born on the island.

The fisherman told the publication that he had never seen an ecological disaster of this magnitude in his life.

Divers using a containment boom to help contain oil leaking from the ship

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Divers using a containment boom to help contain oil leaking from the shipCredit: AP:Associated Press
Thick black oil could be seen clogging up the shoreline

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Thick black oil could be seen clogging up the shorelineCredit: EPA
A dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near the honeymoon islands

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A dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near the honeymoon islandsCredit: AFP or licensors
Fears are now growing bad weather could tear the stricken ship apart

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Fears are now growing bad weather could tear the stricken ship apartCredit: AFP or licensors

Some 400 sea booms were deployed to contain the spill, but they were not enough.

“Our country doesn’t have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships,” the PM admitted on Friday.

Environment Minister Kavydass Ramano said a salvage team of 11 members were working to secure and stabilise the ship – but had to be evacuated due to the cracks in the ship hull.

A technical team is assessing the situation and has a technical plan to start pumping out the fuel at the earliest opportunity, he added. 

“Bad weather has made it impossible to act, and I worry what could happen Sunday when the weather deteriorates,” he said.

Heavy winds are expected to push the oil slick even farther along the mainland’s shore.

Anxious locals have been working non stop to create makeshift barriers

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Anxious locals have been working non stop to create makeshift barriersCredit: AP:Associated Press
Mauritius says the spill represents a real danger for its tourism industry

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Mauritius says the spill represents a real danger for its tourism industryCredit: AFP or licensors

Worried ex-MP Sunil Dowarkasing, an environmental consultant, said: “This is no longer a threat to our environment.

“It is a full-blown ecological disaster that has affected one of the most environmentally important parts of Mauritius, the Mahebourg Lagoon.”

The lagoon is a protected area, created several years ago to preserve an area in Mauritius as it was 200 years ago.

“The people of Mauritius – thousands and thousands – have come out to try to prevent as much damage as possible,” added Dowarkasing.

He said people have created long floating oil booms to try to slow the spread into the lagoon and onto the coast.

The hastily made fabric booms are stuffed with sugar cane leaves and straw and kept afloat with plastic bottles, he explained.

People are also using empty oil drums to scoop up as much oil as possible from shallower waters.

“We are working flat out. It’s a major challenge, because the oil is not only floating in the lagoon, it’s already washing up on the shore.

“The booms are really working in many spots,” said Dowarkasing.

The ship didn't initially leak oil when it first became stuck

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The ship didn’t initially leak oil when it first became stuckCredit: AFP or licensors
The tanker is in the left hand corner, oozing a huge amount of oil into the ocean

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The tanker is in the left hand corner, oozing a huge amount of oil into the oceanCredit: AFP or licensors

The Mauritius oil spill is so big that it can be seen from space.

Satellite images captured by space tech operated by Maxar Technologies show how plumes of black oil are taking over the ocean.

Greenpeace Africa warned that hundreds of tonnes of diesel and oil has leaked into the water.

Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe dEsny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, said Greenpeace’s climate and energy manager, Happy Khambule.

The country also has appealed to the United Nations for urgent aid, including experts in containing oil spills and environmental protection.

A police inquiry has been opened into possible negligence, the government said.

Neither Mitsui OSK Lines nor Nagashiki Shipping, the ship’s owner, could confirm the cost of damages from the oil spill.

Wildlife volunteers have ferried dozens of baby tortoises to safety, as oil soon slicked the bay

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Wildlife volunteers have ferried dozens of baby tortoises to safety, as oil soon slicked the bayCredit: AFP or licensors
France said it is sending pollution control equipment to Mauritius

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France said it is sending pollution control equipment to MauritiusCredit: AFP or licensors
The thick oil slick could be clearly seen with drone footage

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The thick oil slick could be clearly seen with drone footageCredit: Reuters
Volunteers are working to clear the stricken coastline

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Volunteers are working to clear the stricken coastlineCredit: Reuters

 





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