On the sea as in the air, desperate efforts to prevent an ecological disaster in the pristine waters of the island of Mauritius were in progress Sunday, August 9, with the aid of France, after a tanker containing 4,000 tonnes of fuel ran aground in the protected marine zone.
Sunday night, the small nation of the Indian ocean is preparing for the worst. The intervention teams are temporarily managed to block the leakage of oil which poured for days from the bilge of the boat. But the risk that the bulk carrier breaks simply into two was growing. "The cracks have widened. The situation is even worse ", said to the press, the Prime minister of mauritius Pravind Jugnauth.
The Wakashio, belonging to a japanese company but flying the panamanian flag, was carrying 3 800 tonnes of heavy oil and 200 tonnes of diesel when it struck the 25 July a reef at Pointe d'esny. Located on the southeast coast of the island, this reef is an ecological jewel known for its conservation sites classified internationally, its turquoise waters and its protected wetlands. On Thursday, the authorities of mauritius have announced that the hydrocarbons flowed from the cracked shell of the bulk carrier. More than 1,000 of the 4,000 tons of fuel carried by the Wakashio have already spilled into the sea, said Akihiko Ono, the vice-president of Mitsui OSK Lines, the company that operated the ship.
on Sunday, thousands of people flocked on the banks to try to limit as much as the black tide that threatens the island. "People have understood that they needed to take things in hand to protect the fauna and the flora ", has declared to the Agency France-Presse Ashok Subron, an activist and ecologist who arrived from the city nearby Mahebourg.
currents complicate operations
Until now, the choppy waters made it difficult for the operations to limit the leakage of hydrocarbons. According to satellite images, the water has already started to drift towards the coast, fanned by winds and strong currents. "I think it is already too late. If the ship breaks in two, the situation will be uncontrollable, " said the Agence France-Presse Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, an oceanographer and environmental engineer.
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The "dam and containment does not work well -"
Saturday, on the river banks, volunteers have built in the haste of the cords floating, made of straw and empty bottles, to try to contain the slick drift. "All volunteers are covered in black ", told the Agence France-Presse Sunil Dowarkasing, a former Greenpeace activist and environmental scientist, who participates in the cleaning from Mahebourg (South East), one of the most affected areas. "We will never recover from this damage. But what we can do is try to limit them ",-he hoped still.
Until now, the choppy waters made it difficult for the operations to limit the leakage of hydrocarbons. According to a spokesman of Mitsui OSK Lines, which operates the ship, attempts to evacuate the fuel in the helicopter have failed. "We have tried to place a dam for containment around the vessel, but this does not work well because of the heavy surf ", he explained to Agence France-Presse in Tokyo.
The economy of Mauritius depends on the sea
The opposition has called for the resignation of the ministers of the Environment and of Fisheries, criticizing the government for not having acted earlier. Environmentalists fear that the boat will finally break down and would cause monumental damage in the sea and on the coast.
Maurice and its 1.3 million inhabitants depend on these waters for food and eco-tourism in an area which has the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, and is a sanctuary for rare wildlife and endemic, as well as unique wetlands classified.