Conditions close to the coast of Mauritius where a Japanese oil tanker ship got stuck in a reef have worsened with the carrier splitting apart into two, threatening even greater oil spill that could cause grave damage to the environment. The MV Wakashio had already spilled approximately 1,000 tonnes of oil into the Indian Ocean and muddied the otherwise emerald blue waters of the area.

The government of Mauritius, with the energetic participation of locals, was working hard to remove the remaining oil in the tanker. The quantity of the remaining liquid was estimated to be 3,000 tonnes. As of Saturday, 166 tonnes of oil remained on the ship. Japanese and French authorities have also responded to the crisis by providing help for cleaning up the polluted waters.

Environmental damage

The biggest threat is damage to a marine biology park which contains endangered species and mangroves which form a unique ecological zone. In cleaning operations so far, around 800 tonnes of oil that was in the waters has been removed as well as approximately 300 tonnes of other types of waste.

The spill began on July 25 after the ship got stuck in a reef close to the coast of Mauritius. After a week of being there, the oil in the tanker began to seep into the waters. The government of the island nation declared an environmental emergency last week and has faced criticism for not responding earnestly.

MV Wakashio
MV Wakashio Wikimedia Commons

Containing the damage

The indications of the ship breaking apart came on Saturday through the images of the ship taken from an aerial position. The breaking apart happened later that day. Now, apart from the cleaning and draining operations, the authorities are also trying to tow away the two broken parts of the tanker to a safer location.

The oil spill affects Mauritius on two key fronts. It damages the precious marine environment around the island and also threatens to take away the enchanting natural beauty of the area which draws tourists from around the world and contributes hugely to the country's economy. To protect the oil from spreading further, booms have been deployed to contain the spill.

To make matters worse for the salvaging operations, the weather is not looking great. High waves can disrupt the operation and cause the oil to move further out. The Japanese company which owns the ship – Nagashiki – has promised to provide help as well as compensation for the damage. France, connected to Mauritius through colonial history, will also help out.

DW / Youtube