The intervention teams in Mauritius were in a race against time this Monday to prevent another fuel leak from the ship that ran aground with more than 4,000 tons of hydrocarbons on board.
The vessel “MV Wakashio”, carrying 3,800 tonnes of fuel and 200 tonnes of diesel, hit a reef at Pointe d’Esny on 25 July. A crack in the hull caused a fuel leak.
Located on the southeastern coast of the island, Pointe d’Esny is an ecological gem renowned for its internationally classified conserved sites, turquoise waters and protected wetlands.
More than 1,000 of the 4,000 tonnes carried by the Wakashio have already been dumped into the sea, said Akihiko Ono, vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines, which operated the vessel.
Helicopters were transporting part of the pumped fuel to the coast on Monday, but efforts to continue extracting it were hampered by rough seas and strong winds.
Weather conditions, which also bring the oil spilled by the ship closer to the island, are not expected to improve until early Monday night.
– “There isn’t much time left” –
Some 2,500 tonnes of fuel were still on board, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said, warning that the risk of the ship’s hull splitting is real.
“It is in an advanced stage of the fracturing process (…) there is not much time left,” said an expert who participates in the relief work, on condition of anonymity.
The divers detected new cracks in the hull of the ship and from the shore, where an intense cleaning is being carried out, a loud crack was heard.
Aerial images showed the severity of the contamination from the fuel leak, with large areas of water blackened by oil in the middle of a crystalline sea, and this threatens to represent an environmental catastrophe if the rest of the fuel is scattered on board.
Thousands of volunteers try to contain water pollution by surrounding the fuel with makeshift hemp and cloth dams, or using buckets to collect it.
Japan on Monday sent a six-member aid team, including the coast guard, and France a ship and a plane with specialists from the neighboring island of Reunion.
A spokesman for Mitsui OSK Lines, the Japanese company that used the boat, told AFP that the company will send a team of experts on Tuesday, after they have been tested for covid-19 and have tested negative.
The Japanese company Nagashiki Shipping, which owns the ship, issued a statement on Monday in which it presents “its apologies to the people of Mauritius” and pledges to do “the best it can to protect the environment and mitigate the effects of pollution.”
In Mauritius, one of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world is found and represents a sanctuary for a rare fauna.
burs-str-np / cyb / fal / thm / age / mar / eb / mb