Environmentalists in Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, say they are “expecting the worst” in a race to suck about 2,500 tons of oil from a Japanese ship in distress before it. broken in half and continues to pollute the sea.
According to the Associated Press, the MV Wakashio ship ran aground on a reef two weeks ago near an island nation off the east coast of Africa, has leaked more than 1,000 tons of fuel. Right now, strong winds and waves are hitting the ship stranded as it shows signs of detachment.
“The ship is showing big, really big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, up to two days, “warns Mauritian Wildlife Organization Director Jean Hugues Gardenne. Too much oil is still in the vessel, so disaster could get much worse. It is important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking fuel out bit by ton, ton by ton.
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“We̵7;re expecting the worst,” he added.
French experts have arrived from the nearby Reunion island and are deploying floating barriers to try to stop any new oil spills, Gardenne said. France sent a naval ship, military aircraft and technical advisers after Mauritius called for international help on Friday, while Japan said it would send a six-member expert team to assist support.
Efforts are also underway to get other ships close enough to pump large amounts of oil out of MV Wakashio.
Environmental consultant Sunil Dowarkasing, a former member of parliament in Mauritius, told The Associated Press: “The risk of the ship breaking in two is increasing hour by hour. “The cracks have now reached the base of the ship and there is still a lot of fuel on the train.”
The ship ran aground on July 25, but removal of the oil it was carrying only started the week before the hull cracked and began to empty all fuel into the ocean, according to Dowarkasing.
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MV Wakashio’s owner, Nagashiki Shipping, said on Monday that two ships had come to the scene to pump oil from the ship in danger.
“A hose connection has been successfully established … and the fuel oil delivery is underway,” the company said in a statement. Nagashiki Shipping added that it is working with the Mauritian administration to “reduce the spill” and “the main focus at the moment is … protecting the environment.”
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Meanwhile, pressure is increasing on the government of Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth to explain why it is not acting immediately to avert environmental disaster. Jugnauth has declared the oil spill a national emergency, but some residents say he acted too late.
The opposition and activists are urging the ministers of environment and fisheries to step down. The volunteers ignored the government order to hand over the cleanup to local officials.
Associated Press contributed to this report.