Mauritius oil spill: Stricken ship could 'break in half' leaking thousands of tonnes more oil

10 August 2020, 08:32

Over 1,000 tonnes of oil has leaked from the tanker
Over 1,000 tonnes of oil has leaked from the tanker. Picture: Getty

By Asher McShane

A tanker that ran aground spilling oil off the coast of the island paradise of Mauritius could break apart, leaking thousands of tonnes more oil into the sea.

A race is underway to save the island's white sandy beaches from the encroaching tide of oil which leaked from the tanker MV Wakashio into the sea off the south-east of Mauritius after it ran aground.

So far as much as 1,000 tonnes of oil has leaked from the ship, but it is breaking up and 2,500 more tonnes of oil remain on board.

The prime minister of Mauritius has said response crews have managed to stem the leak, but they are bracing for the worst.

Locals join efforts to clean up the beaches of Mauritius
Locals join efforts to clean up the beaches of Mauritius. Picture: Getty

He said last night: "The cracks have grown. The situation is even worse.

"The risk of the boat breaking in half still exists.”

Mauritius has declared an environmental emergency and locals have been flocking to beaches to assist with the clean-up operation using improvised floating barriers made of straw in an effort to protect beaches and inlets.

The ship ran aground on July 25 and the National Coast Guard received no distress call.

The ship's owners were listed as the Japanese companies Okiyo Maritime Corporation and Nagashiki Shipping Co Ltd.

A police inquiry has been opened into issues such as possible negligence.

A government environmental outlook released nearly a decade ago said Mauritius had a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan but equipment on hand was "adequate to deal with oil spills of less than 10 metric tonnes".

In case of major spills, it said, assistance could be obtained from other Indian Ocean countries or from international oil spill response organisations.