Mauritius proclaims emergency as stranded ship spills gas CBC news

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The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius has declared a “state of environmental emergency” after a Japanese-owned ship that ran aground offshore days ago began spilling tonnes of fuel.

Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth announced the development late Friday as satellite images showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near environmental areas that the government called “very sensitive.”

About Mauritius
Mauritius ( (listen) mə-RISH-(ee-)əs, maw-; French: Maurice [mɔʁis, moʁis] (listen); Creole: Moris [moʁis]), officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) off the south-east coast of the African continent. It includes the eponymous main island of Mauritius and Rodrigues, Agaléga and St. Brandon. The islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues form part of the Mascarene Islands, along with nearby Réunion, a French overseas department. The capital and largest city, Port Louis, is located on Mauritius, where most of the population is concentrated. The country spans 2,040 square kilometres (790 sq mi) and has an Exclusive Economic Zone covering 2.3 million square kilometres.Arab sailors were possibly the first to discover the uninhabited island around 975, which they called Dina Arobi. The earliest confirmed discovery was in 1507 by Portuguese sailors, who otherwise took little interest in the islands. The Dutch took possession in 1598, establishing a succession of short-lived settlements before abandoning their efforts in 1710. France took control in 1715, renaming it Isle de France. About a century later, it ceded Mauritius and its dependencies to Great Britain. As a British colony, Mauritius included Rodrigues, Agalega, St. Brandon, Tromelin, the Chagos Archipelago, and, until 1906, the Seychelles. Sovereignty over Tromelin is disputed between Mauritius and France, as it was not specifically mentioned in the Treaty of Paris. Mauritius remained a primarily plantation-based colony of the United Kingdom until independence in 1968.
In 1965, three years prior to the independence of Mauritius, the U.K. split the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritian territory, and the islands of Aldabra, Farquhar and Desroches from the Seychelles, to form the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). The local population was forcibly expelled and the largest island, Diego Garcia, was leased to the United States. The UK has restricted access to the Chagos Archipelago to casual tourists, the media, and its former inhabitants. The sovereignty of the Chagos is disputed between Mauritius and the UK. In February 2019, the International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion ordering the UK to return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius as rapidly as possible, in order to complete the decolonisation of Mauritius.
Owing to its geographic location and centuries of colonialism, the people of Mauritius are highly diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and faith; it is the only country in Africa where Hinduism is the largest religion. The island’s government is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system, and Mauritius is highly ranked for democracy and for economic and political freedom. Mauritius is categorised as “high” in the Human Development Index. According to the World Bank, the country is classified as a high-income economy. Mauritius is ranked as the most competitive and one of the most developed economies in the African region. The country is a welfare state; the government provides free universal health care, free education up to tertiary level and free public transport for students, senior citizens, and the disabled. Mauritius was ranked among the safest or most peaceful countries by the Global Peace Index 2019.Along with the other Mascarene Islands, Mauritius is known for its varied flora and fauna, with many species endemic to the island. The island was the only known home of the dodo, which, along with several other avian species, was made extinct by human activities relatively shortly after the island’s settlement.

Mauritius declares emergency as stranded ship spills fuel | CBC News

About declares

Mauritius has said the ship was carrying nearly 4,000 tonnes of fuel, and cracks have appeared in its hull.

Jugnauth said his government had appealed to France for help, saying the spill “represents a danger” for the country of some 1.3 million people that relies heavily on tourism and has been been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mauritius declares emergency as stranded ship spills fuel | CBC News

“Our country doesn’t have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships,” he said. Bad weather has made it impossible to act, and “I worry what could happen Sunday when the weather deteriorates.”

Jugnauth shared a photo of the vessel, the MV Wakashio, tilted precariously. “Sea rough beyond the reefs with swells. Ventures in the open seas are not advised,” according to the Mauritius Meteorological Services.

Videos posted online showed oily waters lapping at the shore, and a man running a stick across the water’s surface and lifting it, dripping black goo.

This photo taken Friday shows oil leaking from the MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier ship that recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius. (Georges de La Tremoille/MU press via The Associated Press)

The French island of Reunion is the closest neighbour to Mauritius, and France’s Foreign Ministry said France is Mauritius’s “leading foreign investor” and one of its largest trading partners.

“When biodiversity is in peril, there is urgency to act,” French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Saturday. “France is there. Alongside the people of Mauritius. You can count on our support dear Jugnauth.”

A separate French statement from Reunion said a military transport aircraft would carry pollution-control equipment to Mauritius, and a navy vessel with additional material would set sail for the island nation.

“We are in a situation of environmental crisis,” the environment minister of Mauritius, Kavy Ramano, has said.

After the cracks in the hull were detected, a salvage team that had been working on the ship was evacuated, Ramano told reporters Thursday. Some 400 sea booms were deployed in an effort to contain the spill.

Government statements in recent days said the ship ran aground July 25, and the National Coast Guard received no distress call. The ship’s owners were listed as the Japanese companies Okiyo Maritime Corporation and Nagashiki Shipping Co. Ltd.

Workers prepare sea booms in an effort to contain the spill. (Submitted by William Ah-Kine)

A police inquiry has been opened into issues such as possible negligence, one statement said. Online ship trackers showed the Panama-flagged bulk carrier had been en route from China to Brazil.

A statement by Nagashiki Shipping Co. Ltd. said that “due to the bad weather and constant pounding over the past few days, the starboard side bunker tank of the vessel has been breached and an amount of fuel oil has escaped into the sea.”

It added: “Nagashiki Shipping takes its environmental responsibilities extremely seriously and will take every effort with partner agencies and contractors to protect the marine environment and prevent further pollution.”

Tonnes of diesel and oil are now leaking into the water, Happy Khambule, the climate and energy manager for environmental group Greenpeace Africa, said in a statement.

Bystanders on Thursday look at MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier that ran aground near Blue Bay Marine Park in southeast Mauritius on July 25. The ship was carrying 200 tonnes of diesel and 3,800 tonnes of bunker fuel, according to the local press. (Dev Ramkhelawon/L’Express Maurice/AFP via Getty )

“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,” Khambule said.

A government environmental outlook released nearly a decade ago said Mauritius had a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan but equipment on hand was “adequate to deal with oil spills of less than 10 metric tonnes.”

In case of major spills, it said, assistance could be obtained from other Indian Ocean countries or from international oil spill response organizations.

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