France sends aid after Mauritius declares oil spill emergency


August 8, 2020

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) – France is sending specialist teams and equipment to help Mauritius deal with a fuel spill from a bulk carrier that ran aground on a pristine reef two weeks ago and threatens to become an ecological disaster.

The MV Wakashio struck the reef on the southeast coast of the Indian Ocean island on July 25.

On Thursday, Mauritius said fuel was leaking for a crack in the vessel’s hull and its prime minister, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, declared a state of environmental emergency and pleaded for international help.

“The sinking of the #Wakashio represents a danger for Mauritius,” Jugnauth said in a tweet.

President Emmanuel Macron responded by saying France was sending help from the neighbouring island of Reunion, a French overseas territory.

A military aircraft from Reunion and carrying pollution-control equipment would make two flights over the spill site on Saturday, while a naval vessel carrying booms and absorbents would also set sail, authorities on Reunion said.

“When biodiversity is in danger, there is an urgent need to act,” Macron said. “You can count on our support.”

Greenpeace said the fuel and oil leak into nearby lagoons threatened the survival of thousands of species which were at “risk of drowning in a sea of pollution”.

The spill near Pointe d’Esny was likely “one of the most terrible ecological crises ever seen on the small island country,” the environmental group said in a statement.

Satellite images released on Friday showed a slick spreading out into the turquoise waters surrounding the stricken vessel. Some fuel has washed ashore.

Mauritius, famous for its pristine beaches, is popular with tourists who last year contributed 63 billion Mauritius rupees ($1.59 billion) to the economy.

($1 = 39 Mauritius rupees)

(Additonal reporting by Omar Mohammed in Nairobi and Richard Lough in Paris; Editing by Mike Harrison and Angus MacSwan)