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MV Wakashio: Locals in Mauritius try to stop oil spill

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Virtual Tour of Mauritius/REUTERS

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The tanker is leaking tonnes of oil into surrounding waters

Volunteers in Mauritius are scrambling to create cordons to keep leaking oil from a tanker away from the island.

MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on 25 July. The tanker has since begun leaking tonnes of oil into surrounding waters.

Locals are creating straw tubes in an attempt to contain and absorb the oil.

Mauritius is home to world-renowned coral reefs, and tourism is a crucial part of the nation’s economy. There are concerns about the island’s eco-system.

Images posted online by local media show volunteers creating straw tubes to act as a barrier. Some people have been collecting the straw from fields to battle the spill.

Others have been making their own tubes with tights and hair to add to the effort.

Volunteers have also been working on cleaning up the island’s beaches.

“People have realised that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora,” Ashok Subron, an environmental activist told AFP news agency.

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Maxar Technologies/Reuters

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Satellite images show the extent of the oil spill

Mitsui OSK Lines, the operators of the ship, said they have tried to place their own containment booms around the vessel but have not been successful due to rough seas.

Helicopters are attempting to move some of the fuel and diesel off the ship.

It is thought that the ship, registered in Panama, had some 4,000 tonnes of fuel aboard when it ran aground. All staff on board were evacuated.

At least 1,000 tonnes of oil is thought to have leaked into the waters surrounding the island nation.

  • Mauritius declares emergency as ship leaks oil
  • Mauritius country profile

Environmentalists are concerned about the impact on the country’s ecosystem.

Happy Khamule from Greenpeace Africa warned that “thousands” of animal species were “at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food security and health”.

Image copyright
Virtual Tour of Mauritius/REUTERS

Image caption

At least 1,000 tonnes of oil is thought to have leaked from the vessel so far

In a news conference, Akihiko Ono, executive vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines “profusely” apologised for the spill and for “the great trouble we have caused”.

He vowed that the company would do “everything in their power to resolve the issue”.

On Friday, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of emergency and appealed for help.

France has sent a military aircraft with pollution control equipment from its nearby island of Reunion.

Mr Jugnauth is set to hold an emergency meeting later on Sunday amid fears that bad weather could further complicate efforts to hold back the oil.

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