The Japanese-owned ship, the MV Wakashio, was embraced at Pointe d’Esny in late July. A massive clean-up operation has been launched off the coast since oil began flowing on Thursday, with thousands of local volunteers heading to the east side of the island nation to help.
Yet some on earth said on Tuesday that new cracks had appeared – and if the ship exploded, thousands of tons more fuel would be released into the lagoon.
“The way the ship is leaking and breaking, there is a strong possibility that this ship will explode in two. And we still have about 2,500 metric tons of fuel in the ship’s tanks,” said Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace. International and former member of parliament in Mauritius.
Dowarkasing said the ship has three oil tanks, one of which had leaked into the ocean. This leak has stopped since, and now an operation is underway ̵1; using a tanker and rescue squad – to remove the oil from the other tanks before the ship explodes.
“This is the immediate danger they face,” Dowarkasing said. “The weather was good yesterday and it looks like it will be today, which is an advantage.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency, with the country’s environment minister, Kavy Ramano, saying: “We are in an environmental crisis situation.”
The spill is close to two marine ecosystems protected by the environment and the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve. Nearby are a number of popular tourist beaches and mangrove plantations.
Vikash Tatayah, director of conservation at the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, said the teams worked to rescue many different species of plants and wildlife from a nearby island, Ile aux Aigrettes.
“We have actually removed thousands of plants that were in the nursery and moved fruit cows that were captive to the island. We have also removed a small number of threatened birds,” Tatayah said on Tuesday.
The oil has penetrated the Mahebourg Lagoon, a picturesque place known for its turquoise waters. Renovation efforts have continued in the area since 2001, when the government stopped extracting sand from the lagoon. Dowarkasing said marine life was back and corals were slowly growing before the spill.
“With this oil spill we can lose it again,” he said. “There will be massive damage to the marine ecosystem.”
Conservatives at the scene say it is too early to assess the extent of the environmental damage and want the government to make appropriate assessments.
Concerns are also growing about the thousands of local people whose livelihoods will be affected by the spill. The island relies heavily on fishing and tourism, and was already affected by the coronavirus pandemic by stopping international travel.
“People are angry that this happened,” Tatayah said. “Thousands upon thousands of people working in tourism will be badly affected by this devastation.”
On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron said France was deploying teams and equipment from the nearby island of Reunion in response. The Japanese Foreign Ministry also said a six-member team from Japan Disaster Relief had also been sent to help respond “on request” to the Mauritian government.
MV Wakashio is a cargo ship operated by the Japanese company Mitsui OSK Lines. He was on his way from China to Brazil when he hugged on the reef on July 25th. Last Thursday, the ship began to leak oil into the ocean.
The company said it had contracted an “oil response specialist and rescue team” to work with Mauritian authorities.
“Nagashiki Transport takes its environmental responsibilities extremely seriously and will take every effort with partner agencies and contractors to protect the marine environment and prevent further pollution,” the statement said.
In an updated statement Tuesday, Mitsui OSK Lines said about 1,180 tonnes of oil had leaked from the ship’s fuel tank – with about 460 tonnes manually recovered from the sea and coast. The ship was carrying about 3,800 tonnes of Low Sulfur Fuel and 200 tonnes of oil, according to the operator.
Mitsui OSK Lines on Tuesday confirmed that the crack inside the hull of the ship had widened, adding: “Since this ship is not able to sail on its own, it is complaining about a trailer so that it does not sink even if it is broken.”
On Sunday, Akihiko Ono, executive vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines, apologized for the accident and damage to the environment.
CNN’s Zehra Jafree, Kaori Enjoji, Yoko Wakatsuki and Akanksha Sharma contributed to the report.