The Island of Mauritius, known for picturesque lagoons and vibrant coral reefs, is facing a colossal environmental emergency - an oil spill of more than 1,000 tons.
Oil seen spilling from the MV Wakashio on August 11th. Gwendoline Defente.
A Japanese-owned bulk carrier, known as the MV Wakashio, was en route to Panama with 4,000 tons of fuel oil. On July 25, it went off-course and grounded in a coral reef near the island nation of Mauritius in East Africa. Less than two weeks later, the vessel ruptured in two and began leaking oil and diesel, causing an ecological disaster of immense size.
By the time authorities stopped the leak, over 1,000 tons of oil had been released into the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, the spill occurred near environmentally-sensitive areas including the Ile aux Aigrettes nature reserve and Blue Bay Marine Park as well as several tourist beaches.
Happy Khambule, a senior campaign manager at Greenpeace Africa, commented on the incident.
"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," - Happy Khambule
According to local news media, the MV Wakashio's crew held a party on the night the vessel went off-course. Sunil Kumar Nadeshwar, the captain, was arrested in Mauritius's capital, Port Louis, on the charge of "endangering the safe navigation of a vessel." under maritime laws. The chief officer of the vessel, Tilak Ratna Suboda, was apprehended as well. Ilshad Munsoor, the pair's lawyer, said they'll be reappearing in court on August 25th.
While welcoming the captain's arrest, several Mauritians remain angry at their government. Many citizens claim that officials should've acted with more urgency, responding to the wrecked vessel before it began leaking. Reuben Pillay, director of Reubs Vision, desires more answers from the government about the MV Wakashio running off-course.
"Will we know the truth? We think that there is more to this story." - Reuben Pillay
Volunteers carry handmade oil barriers - fabric sacks with sugarcane leaves. L'Express Maurice.
In response to the spill, thousands of Mauritians have offered their efforts in collecting donations, creating awareness on social media, and participating in cleanup measures.
Seven miles of oil barriers, pictured above, have already been positioned around the vessel to prevent further sea pollution. The majority of these were created by Mauritian volunteers using donated hair, sugarcane straws, plastic bottles, and other items.
Additionally, one petition, found on Change.org, requests that the Japanese Government and Mitsui OSK Line's, the company owning the MK Wakashio, provide funding for emergency response, long-term environmental rehabilitation, and compensation towards Mauritian citizens.
"Mitsui OSK Lines' criminal negligence was the immediate cause of the disaster... ...the emergency response needs full support now and cannot be held hostage to corporate delays and evasions. The Japanese government can, and must take responsibility to ensure the fastest and most effective response to preserve lives and the environment." - afformentioned petition