Environmentalists in Mauritius, an island country in the Indian Ocean, say they expect “the worst” in a race to drain an estimated 2,500 tons of oil from an affected Japanese ship before it breaks in half and further pollutes the ocean.
The MV Wakashio, which ran aground on a coral reef near the island state off the east coast of Africa two weeks ago, has already spilled more than 1,000 tons of fuel, according to the Associated Press. Strong winds and waves are now striking the stranded ship as it shows signs of splitting.
“The ship shows really big, big cracks. We believe that anytime it will break in two within a maximum of two days, “warned Jean Hugues Gardenne, manager of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.”
MAURITIUS DECLARES THE EMERGENCY WHEN STRANDED SHIPS FUEL
“We expect the worst,” he added.
French experts have arrived from nearby Reunion Island and are deploying floating barriers to contain new oil spills, Gardenne said. France sent a naval ship, military planes and technical advisers after Mauritius asked for international help on Friday, while Japan sent a six-person team of experts to assist.
Efforts are also being made to get other ships close enough to pump large volumes of oil from the MV Wakashio.
“The risk of the ship breaking in two is increasing by the hour,” environmental adviser Sunil Dowarkasing, a former MEP in Mauritius, told Associated Press. “The cracks are now at the base of the ship and there is still a lot of fuel on the ship.”
The ship ran aground on July 25, but work on removing the oil it carried did not begin until last week when the hull broke and the fuel dumped into the sea, according to Dowarkasing.
SCIENTISTS PUZZLED TO PARAGUAYAN LAGOON TURN PURPLE ON ONE SIDE, STAY BLUE ON OTHER
MV Wakashio’s owner, Nagashiki Shipping, said Monday that two ships have arrived at the scene to pump oil from the endangered ship.
“A hose connection has been successfully made … and the transfer of heating oil is underway,” the company said in a statement. Nagashiki Shipping added that it was working with the Mauritian authorities “to mitigate the spill” and that “the main focus at this point is on protecting the environment”.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth’s government to explain why it did not take immediate action to avert the environmental disaster. Jugnauth has declared the oil spill a national emergency, but some residents say he acted too late.
The opposition and activists are calling for the environment and fisheries ministers to resign. Volunteers have ignored a government order to leave cleanup work to local officials.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.