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Mauritius oil spill threatens environmental disaster as cracks appear in ship

Fears of a major environmental crisis have been sparked after a Japanese bulk carrier ran aground off the coast of Mauritius on July 25 and began leaking oil into the pristine waters.

Now, the Mauritian Prime Minister is warning the ship may break in two after cracks have begun appearing in its hull, threatening even further leakage.

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Photo: Eric Villars

A major oil spill off Mauritius is threatening an environmental disaster, with 2,000 tonnes of oil still in danger of leaking into the Indian Ocean.

So far, around 1,000 tonnes of oil have spilled into the ocean. On Monday, 500 tonnes were able to be safely pumped out of the ship, according to Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth. However, there remains around 2,000 tonnes of oil on the vessel and cracks appearing in the hull have led to fears that the ship may break in two, spilling the rest of the oil into the ocean.

“The salvage team has observed several cracks in the ship hull, which means that we are facing a very serious situation,” Mr Jugnauth described in a televised speech, according to Reuters. The Prime Minister indicated that the country should prepare for the “worst case scenario” as it was clear that “at some point the ship will fall apart.”

The area is renowned for its coral reefs, lagoons, and white-sand beaches, home to a diverse array of marine wildlife. The country of 1.3 million also heavily relies on its tourism industry which has already been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the last two weeks, a massive cleaning effort coordinated by thousands of volunteers has taken place. Some of the tactics include using human hair – which people are volunteering to cut off – which absorbs the oil, as well as sugar cane leaves, kept afloat by plastic bottles.

However, conservationists have reportedly already begun discovering signs of ecological impact, including dead fish and animals covered in oil. Mauritius has declared a state of emergency and aid has been sent from both France and Japan. The Japanese operators of the ship have apologised for the catastrophe and offered to do everything in their power.