Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth Friday declared a state of environmental emergency, as the Indian ocean island battles to contain an oil spill. The Minister is seeking the help of France’s Government, saying the island cannot handle the damage alone.
Seeping in from a Japanese freighter that ran aground in July, off the coast of Mauritius, the oil has steadily damaged the quality of living in the tourist island.
Jugnauth, in a brief statement several hours earlier tweeted: “Our country does not have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships, so I asked for help from France,” tagging French President Emmanuel Macron.
Photographs from the air showed the oil slick spreading through the turquoise waters surrounding the island. Other images in local L’Express newspaper showed blackened beaches and dead marine life.
Greenpeace has said the spill from the bulk carrier would have devastating consequences.
The “MV Wakashio ran aground around July 25 and is now leaking tons of diesel and oil into the ocean,” said Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaign manager.
“Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food security and health.”
Deborah de Chazal, executive director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, which is working with the government to address the disaster, said the boat was carrying 4,000 tons of oil.
The crew of the Panamanian-flagged ship are now in quarantine on the island that sits off the east African coast, local media reported.
The freighter, owned by Nagashiki Shipping in Okayama, Japan, was en route to Brazil from Singapore.
“In order to prevent an adverse environmental impact as much as possible, we have put up a fence and started recovering the oil,” a company official is reported to have said.
“The cause [of the accident] is under investigation,” Yoshinori Fukushima, a public relations official for Nagashiki Shipping, said.
The island nation’s Ministry of Environment said in a statement that they have set up a committee to identify how best to orchestrate the cleanup, even as the ministry warned the public to stay away from the affected area because of toxic fumes.