A Japanese bulk carrier that had leaked hundreds of tons of fuel oil off the Mauritius coast has split apart. The ship, the MV Wakashio, hit a coral reef on July 25th while carrying more than 4,000 tons of oil.
The MV Wakashio initially hit Pointe d’Esny, a known sanctuary for rare and endangered wildlife and home to rare wetlands. The Mauritius Island is next to Madagascar in the southwest Indian Ocean.
Most of the fuel oil, 3,000 out of 4,000 pounds, had already been pumped out, according to officials before the ship’s forward section detached on Saturday, but not all, 90 tons of fuel remains on board the now split vessel. Helicopters are transporting the fuel to another ship owned by the same firm.
Coast guard vessels are on standby and booms have been reinforced to help absorb any fuel that should leak out. The area is not only important to wildlife, but also to tourists as it is one of the most visited coral reefs.
The spill itself spanned 27 sq km as of August 11th, according to US analytics company Ursa Space Systems, who used information from Finnish Iceye satellites.
Due to quick action, a spill three times the size was averted; however, a unique marine ecosystem has been polluted with nearly 1,000 tons of fuel oil, says Navid Singh Khadka, a BBC correspondent.
A week ago, a call went out internationally for aid and help from Mr. Jugnauth. That call was answered with volunteers building floating barriers and cleaning up the beach even though the official stance was for the clean-up to be left to professionals.
An oceanographer and environmental engineer in Mauritius, Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, said that residents were “breathing heavy vapors of oil,” and that there was a “mixture of sadness and anger” over the spill.
Authorities in Mauritius have been granted a search warrant and with the help of the captain, will investigate what went wrong to cause the crash. Mauritius has said it will seek compensation for the leak from Japanese firm Nagashiki Shipping, which has pledged to respond to requests for compensation.