World

Ship leaking oil near pristine area off Mauritius splits apart as cleanup effort continues

The grounded Japanese ship that leaked tonnes of oil near protected areas off the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius has split apart, officials said Saturday, with remaining fuel spreading into the turquoise waters.

Japanese owner says 'residual' amounts of fuel remained on ship after pumping

A volunteer on Aug. 12 cleans oil spilled from the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company. The vessel ran aground on a reef at the Mahebourg Waterfront in Riviè​​​​​​​re des Créoles, Mauritius, on July 25, spilling about 1,000 tonnes of a 4,000-tonne load. (Stephane Antoine/Reuters)

The grounded Japanese ship that leaked tonnes of oil near protected areas off the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius has split apart, officials said Saturday, with remaining fuel spreading into the turquoise waters.

Photos posted on social media by the official cleanup effort with support of the Environment Ministry show the ship in two pieces, "and the tugboats are already at work." Oil barriers were in place and a skimmer ship was nearby.

Most if not all the remaining 3,000 tonnes of fuel had been pumped off the ship in the past week as environmental groups warned that the damage to coral reefs and once-pristine coastal areas could be irreversible.

The MV Wakashio struck a reef on July 25 and its hull began to crack after days of pounding waves. Some 1,000 tonnes of fuel began to leak on Aug. 6.

The Mauritius government is under pressure to explain why immediate action wasn't taken to empty the ship of its fuel. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth earlier blamed bad weather for the slow response.

Volunteers make barriers to absorb leaked oil from the MV Wakashio bulk carrier, which ran aground last month, in Mahebourg, Mauritius, on Friday. (Sumeet Mudhoo/L'Express Maurice/AFP via Getty )

Owner Nagashiki Shipping has said "residual" amounts of fuel remained on the ship after pumping. It is investigating why the ship went off course. The ship was meant to stay at least 16 kilometres from shore. The company has sent experts to help in cleaning up the damage.

The Mauritius government is seeking compensation from the company.

After the government declared an environmental emergency, thousands of volunteers rushed to the shore to create makeshift oil barriers from tunnels of fabric stuffed with sugar cane leaves and even human hair, with empty soda bottles tucked in to keep them afloat.

The country of some 1.3 million people relies heavily on tourism and had already taken a severe hit with coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now