The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship.
The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25.
“We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo.
The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said.
At least 1,000 tonnes of oil is estimated to have leaked from the ship onto the waters surrounding Mauritius.
About 500 tonnes of oil have been salvaged from the ship, but there are still 2,500 tonnes remaining on the ship.
Neither Mitsui OSK Lines nor Nagashiki Shipping, the ship’s owner, could confirm the cost of damages from the oil spill.
Mauritius on Friday declared a state of “environmental emergency” following the accident, and on Saturday, France said it was sending help from nearby Reunion Island.
“When biodiversity is in peril, there is urgency to act,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday in a tweet.
A French statement from Reunion said that a military transport aircraft was carrying pollution control equipment to Mauritius and the navy’s Le Champlain has sailed with additional material.
Clean-up crews are battling a growing ecological disaster on the archipelago’s pristine shores.
Satellite images showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near wetlands that the government called “very sensitive.”
Hundreds of volunteers, many smeared head-to-toe in black sludge, were marshalling along the coastline, stringing together kilometers of makeshift cordons in a desperate attempt to hold back the oily tide.
However, a thick muck has already inundated the island nation’s unspoiled lagoons, marine habitats and white-sand beaches, causing unprecedented damage to the fragile coastal ecosystem upon which Mauritius and its economy relies.
Wildlife workers and volunteers ferried dozens of baby tortoises and rare plants from an island near the spill, Ile aux Aigrettes, to the mainland as fears grew that worsening weather yesterday could tear the ship apart along its cracked hull.
“People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora,” said Ashok Subron, an environmental activist at Mahebourg, one of the worst-hit areas.
Police said they would execute a search warrant granted by a Mauritius court to board the Wakashio and seize items of interest, including the ship’s log book and communication exchanges, as part of its investigation into the accident.
The ship’s captain, a 58-year-old Indian national, would accompany officers on the search, police officials said.
Twenty crew members evacuated safely from the Japanese-owned but Panamanian-flagged ship when it ran aground are under surveillance.
Residents and environmentalists alike wondered why authorities did not act more quickly after the ship ran aground July 25 on a reef.
“That’s the big question,” Jean Hugues Gardenne with the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation said. “Why that ship has been sitting for long on that coral reef and nothing being done.”
This is the country’s first oil spill, he said, adding that perhaps no one expected the ship to break apart. Cracks in the hull were detected a few days ago and the salvage team was quickly evacuated.
About 400 sea booms were deployed to contain the spill, but they were not enough.
The opposition has called for the resignation of the country’s environment and fisheries ministers, as pressure mounts on the government to explain why more was not done to prepare in the two weeks since the ship ran aground.
Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said the spill “represents a danger” for the country of 1.3 million people that relies heavily on tourism and has been hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jugnauth convened an crisis committee yesterday, and has expressed concern that forecast bad weather could further complicate efforts to stymie the spill, and cause more structural damage to the vessel.
Heavy winds are expected to push the oil slick even farther along the mainland’s shore.
The country also has appealed to the UN for urgent aid, including experts in containing oil spills and environmental protection.
Additional reporting by AP and AFP
An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft has acquired imagery data covering all of Mars, including visuals of its south pole, after circling the planet more than 1,300 times since early last year, state media reported yesterday. The Tianwen-1 successfully reached the Red Planet in February last year on the country’s inaugural mission there. A robotic rover has since been deployed on the surface as an orbiter surveyed the planet from space. Among the images taken from space were China’s first photographs of the Martian south pole, where almost all of the planet’s water resources are locked. In 2018, an orbiting probe operated by the European
QUARANTINE SHORTENED: A new protocol detailing risk levels and local policy responses would be ‘more scientific and accurate,’ a health agency spokesman said China’s revised COVID-19 guidelines, which cut a quarantine requirement in half for inbound travelers, also create a standardized policy for mass testing and lockdowns when cases of the disease flare, showing that the country still has a zero-tolerance approach to the virus. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) solidified the position during a trip to Wuhan, where the pathogen first emerged in 2019, saying that China is capable of achieving a “final victory” over the virus. The “zero COVID-19” policy is the most effective and economic approach for the country, Xi said during the trip on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported. The first
A former South Korean Navy SEAL turned YouTuber who risked jail time to leave Seoul and fight for Ukraine said it would have been a “crime” not to use his skills to help. Ken Rhee, a former special warfare officer, signed up at the Ukrainian embassy in Seoul the moment Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asked for global volunteers and was fighting on the front lines near Kyiv by early March. To get there, he had to break South Korean law — Seoul banned its citizens from traveling to Ukraine, and Rhee, who was injured in a fall while leading a special operations
Yogesh Zanzamera lays out his bed on the floor of the factory where he works and lives, one of about 2 million Indians polishing diamonds in an industry being hit hard by the war in Ukraine. With the air reeking from the only toilet for 35to 40 people, conditions at workshops such as this in Gujarat state leave workers at risk of lung disease, deteriorating vision and other illnesses. However, Zanzamera and others like him have other more immediate worries: the faraway war in Europe and the resulting sanctions on Russia, India’s biggest supplier of “rough” gemstones and a long-standing strategic ally. “There