The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius declared a state of environmental emergency late Friday after a Japanese-owned ship that ran aground offshore days ago began spilling tons of fuel. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announced the development as satellite images showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near environmental areas that the government called very sensitive.
Fuel spilling from a Japanese bulk carrier is creating an ecological disaster, endangering corals, fish and other marine life around the Indian Ocean island, officials and environmentalists say.
The MV Wakashio, owned by the Nagashiki Shipping Company, struck the reef on Mauritius' southeast coast on July 25. Nagashiki Shipping Company said it had tried to free the tanker but the effort was hampered by persistent bad weather. The tanker is 299.5 meters long and 50 meters wide and has a crew of 20, it said. It is flagged in Panama with Okiyo Marine, an affiliate of Nagashiki Shipping, listed as the owner.
Urgent efforts increased in Mauritius on Monday to empty a stranded Japanese ship of an estimated 2,500 tons of oil before the vessel breaks up and increases the contamination of the island's once-pristine coastline. Already more than 1,000 tons of the fuel has washed up on the eastern coast of Mauritius, polluting its coral reefs, protected lagoons and shoreline.