France deploys equipment to Mauritius to help contain the oil spill

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France sent equipment to Mauritius to help contain an oil spill from a Japanese ship.

The French Defense Ministry said a French military plane was carrying anti-pollution equipment. A navy boat provided additional equipment from the neighboring French island of Réunion.

A thousand metric tonnes of oil escaped into the sea before the leak was stopped. However, Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth warned that the badly damaged vessel still contains around 2,000 tonnes of oil.

“It is clear that at some point the ship will collapse,” he said in a televised speech Monday night.

The ship crashed into a reef off the southeast coast of the island two weeks ago, becoming trapped. The accident happened near the popular Blue Bay Marine Park, known for its rich marine life and clear blue waters.

This photo taken and provided by Eric Villars shows an oil spill from the MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier that recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius on August 7, 2020.

The vessel is owned by the Japanese company Nagashiki Shipping.

Jugnauth declared a state of emergency on Friday and called for international help.

Thousands of students, environmental activists and citizens joined together to reduce the damage from the spill.

Sunil Dowarkasing is an environmental expert and former Member of Parliament. “It is no longer a threat to our environment, it is a real ecological disaster which affected one of the most important regions from an environmental point of view of Mauritius ”, he declared.

Dowarkasing was talking about the Mahebourg Lagoon, a protected area created several years ago.

Satellite images showed the dark spill spreading into waters near the wetlands that the government called “very sensitive.” Wildlife officers and volunteers gathered baby turtles and rare plants on an island near the spill and took them to the mainland.

A man recovers oil from the Japanese-owned but Panamanian-flagged MV Wakashio, which ran aground near the Blue Bay Marine Park off the south-eastern coast of Mauritius on August 8 2020.

Some people have made equipment to help contain the oil. Handmade floats include materials that can absorb oil like fabric, leaves, and even human hair. Dowarkasing said the floats were helping to slow the spread of oil in many areas.

The continuous wind and waves spread fuel over the island’s east coast, Dowarkasing said, adding: “We have never seen anything like it in Mauritius.

Locals and environmentalists have questioned why authorities failed to act faster after the ship crashed on July 25. “That’s the big question,” said Jean Hugues Gardenne of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. “Why did this ship sit on it for so long coral reef and nothing has been done, ”he told The Associated Press.

MAURICE Shipwreck Wakashio - Hazardous waste leak - ENVIRONMENT-POLLUTION-SHIPPING - Mauritius
MAURICE Shipwreck Wakashio – Hazardous waste leak – ENVIRONMENT-POLLUTION-SHIPPING – Mauritius

For days, locals watched as a rescue the team worked around the tanker. The country’s Environment Ministry announced this week that oil had started to leak following the vessel rupture.

In Japan, officials at Nagashiki Shipping and the ship’s operator, Mitsui OSK Lines, apologized for the spill on Sunday.

At their first press conference since the crash, officials said they had sent experts to Mauritius to join the cleanup efforts. The companies pledged to act in an environmentally responsible manner and said they did not plan to use harmful chemicals in the cleanup operations.

I am Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in this story

reef n. a line of rocks or sand at or near the surface of the sea

ecological adj. relating to the relations between a group of living beings and their environment

coral n. a hard substance, usually pink or white, produced by some type of very small marine animal

rescue n. the activity of saving things from being damaged or lost

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