Mauritius declares environmental emergency after oil spill

Country’s prime minister has asked France for help in tackling the disaster pandemic.

Our sister Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius has declared a “state of environmental emergency” after a Japanese-owned ship that ran aground off shore days ago began spilling tons of fuel.The Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth, made the announcement late on Friday as satellite images showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near environmental areas that the government called “very sensitive”.

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

Jugnauth earlier in the day said his government was appealing 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 hit hard by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our country doesn’t have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships, so I have appealed for help from France and President Emmanuel Macron,” he said. “Bad weather has made it impossible to act, and I worry what could happen Sunday when the weather deteriorates.”

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

A police inquiry has been opened into issues such as possible negligence, a government statement said.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’s economy, food security and health.