Fear of environmental disaster in Mauritius after oil spill hits tourist hot spot

Ecologists raise fears of catastrophic damage to the island’s coastline following leakage from a bulk oil carrier

There are fears of an environmental catastrophe in Mauritius after the country announced that oil was spilling from a ship running aground.

The incident happened in the south-east of the island, a statement from the environment ministry said.

The ministry ordered fisherfolk and boat operators to stay away from water bodies and beaches.

“The ministry has been informed … that there is a breach in the vessel MV Wakashio and there is a leakage of oil,” the statement said.

“The public in general, including boat operators and fishers, are requested not to venture on the beach and in the lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahébourg.”

Bunker fuel seeping

On 25 July, a bulk carrier belonging to a Japanese-owned but Panamanian-flagged company ran aground.

Al Jazeera reports that the ship was carrying 200 tonnes of diesel and 3,800 tonnes of bunker fuel.

The incident happened at Pointe d’Esny, near the idyllic marine park of Blue Bay. The ship’s crew were however evacuated successfully.

The Mauritian environment ministry said the country was seeking assistance from the French Indian Ocean island of La Réunion.

It further confirmed that anti-pollution systems have been sent to Pointe d’Esny and Blue Bay to help save the situation.

Disaster zone

The Mauritian minister for the environment, Kavydass Ramano, lamented the devastating effect of the incident and described it as a disaster.

Addressing the press on Thursday, he declared that Mauritius was “in an environmental crisis situation”.

The fisheries and marine resources minister, Sudheer Maudhoo, admitted that Mauritius was not well equipped to deal with such a spillage.

All attempts to stabilise the ship had failed because of rough seas, he said, and efforts to pump out the oil had proved equally futile.

“This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind, and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem,” the minister said.

E A Alanore

* Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.

Al Jazeera
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