In the aftermath of an oil leak from a Japanese-owned ship that polluted its waters, the island of Mauritius situated in the Indian Ocean has declared a "state of environmental emergency."
The announcement was made on Friday by Pravind Jugnauth, prime minister of Mauritius. The government has stated that the effect of the spill has made a "very sensitive impact" on its environmental areas as images taken via satellite showed the oil staining the island's blue waters with black.
According to the island country, the Japanese-owned MV Wakashio carried around 4,000 tons of fuel. Cracks have appeared in the hull of the ship causing the oil to leak in the surrounding waters.
Before his announcement, Jugnauth stated that the government has already appealed for help from France. He also added that the spill poses a threat to the country and their 1.3 million citizens, explaining that this is another hard hit on their economy which mostly relies on tourism since they have already been affected by the CVOID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, he stated that the country does not have the resources in helping stranded ships refloat, thus, he asked for aid from president Emmanuel Macron of France. He also said that the weather has also made it impossible to make any moves and expressed concern about the situation worsening as the weather deteriorates.
According to The Guardian, footage of the spill has surfaced online showing people at the ship looking from a distance as oily waved crashed on the shorelines of the island. Based on online ship trackers, MV Wakashio, which was a Panama-flagged bulk carrier was headed to Brazil from China.
Mauritius' closest neighbor is the Island of Reunion which is still part of France's territory. The French foreign ministry has also stated that France is the "leading foreign investor" of Mauritius and also one of its biggest partners in trade.
Meanwhile, Kavy Ramano, Mauritius' environmental minister referred to the spill as an environmental crisis. He also added that the areas within the proximity of the spill are sensitive environmental areas including the Blue Bay Marine Park.
In addition, Ramano stated that a salvage team was previously working on the ship, however, they were evacuated after the detection of cracks on the ship's hull. He also added that they have acted on trying to contain the spill by deploying around 400 sea booms.
According to Aljazeera, the National Coast Guard did not receive any distress call despite the ship having been ran aground since the 25th of July. The ship was said to be owned by Japanese companies, Nagashiki Shipping Co Ltd. And Okiyo Maritime Corporation.
On top of this, the government stated that there is already an open police inquiry looking to possibilities of issues concerning negligence that led to the spill.
Nearly a decade ago, and environmental outlook released by the government stated that the country has a national spill contingency plan in place. However, it was emphasized that their equipment can only deal with less than 10 metric tonnes of oil spills.