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Mauritius declares an environmental emergency


The island nation of Mauritius is threatened with a catastrophe. A freighter off the coast is losing oil and the government has declared an environmental emergency. France rushes to help.

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Freighter off Mauritius: "Urgent action is needed"

Photo: Georges de La Tremoille / AP

Mauritius has declared an environmental emergency because of an oil tanker that has run aground off its coast. Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth asked France for help in combating the impending environmental disaster. "Our country does not have the skills and expertise to get stranded ships afloat," he wrote on Twitter.

The freighter "Wakashio", which belongs to a Japanese company and sails under the Panamanian flag, ran aground off the southeast coast of the island state on July 25 with around 4,000 tons of fuel on board. The 20 crew members could be brought to safety. However, oil is currently flowing unhindered into the sea from a leak in the ship's side.

Environmentalists fear a disaster, the accident site is near two nature reserves. The oil threatens to pollute the coral reefs, lagoons and white sandy beaches that Mauritius is famous for as a tourist destination. Aerial photos showed that large parts of the turquoise-blue water are already dark in color.

"I'm afraid it will get worse"

So far, only one tank of the aground freighter tore, said Vikash Tatayah of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), which is helping to overcome the crisis. But it could lead to further cracks and larger oil leaks. "I'm afraid it will get worse." Because of the environmental emergency, the island nation in the Indian Ocean is receiving aid from abroad. 

According to a spokesman for the Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines, an attempt was made to recover the oil from the freighter with a helicopter. However, bad weather hinders the work, said the spokesman. The company also tried to prevent the oil from spreading by locking in the water. Because of the heavy swell "it doesn't work well".

Macron sends help

France on Saturday sent experts and equipment to curb pollution from the neighboring island of Reunion. "If biodiversity is in danger, urgent action must be taken," wrote French President Emmanuel Macron on Twitter.

The island state of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is famous for its picturesque beaches. It is highly dependent on its coastal areas - not only because of the fishing, but also because the coral reefs are among the most beautiful in the world and attract many tourists.

Icon: The mirror

rwi / afp / dpa

Source: spiegel

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