Japan ramps up aid to Mauritius after oil spill

Update: August, 18/2020 - 11:13


The MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef on July 25 and began oozing oil more than a week later before splitting in two at the weekend. AFP/VNA Photo

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius — Japan is sending a second team of experts to help clean up more than 1,000 tonnes of oil that leaked from a Japanese-owned bulk carrier into pristine waters off the coast of Mauritius.

The decision came as the Mauritian government vowed to seek compensation from the ship's owner and insurer for "all losses and damages" related to the disaster.

Tokyo has already dispatched one team of six experts, including a coastguard expert and diplomats, to aid in the response.

The new team of seven experts is to leave Japan on Wednesday and will carry materials such as sorbent to help clean up the oil, Japan's embassy in Mauritius said in a statement on Monday.

"The oil spill has caused serious damage over the southeast coastal environment of Mauritius and will have an inevitable impact on the country's tourism industry as well," the statement said.

"Japan has decided to dispatch the team out of comprehensive and holistic consideration of all circumstances, including the request of urgent assistance from the government of the Republic of Mauritius and the friendly relationship between the two countries," it said.

The MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef on July 25 and began oozing oil more than a week later.

Both the Mauritian and Japanese governments have come under fire for not doing more immediately to prevent a large-scale spill.

Japanese firm Nagashiki, the ship's owner, has pledged to "sincerely" respond to requests for compensation over damage to the marine environment.

The ship split in half over the weekend, and a portion remains stranded on the reef.

At a meeting on Monday, the national crisis committee formed in response to the spill determined that it was "still risky to remove the remaining small amount of residual oil in the engine room" of that portion of the ship, according to a statement issued Monday night.

"Oil-pumping operations should resume as soon as the weather permits," the statement said.

The committee approved a plan to tow the larger section of the boat, which is not stuck on the reef, eight nautical miles "from the outer limit of the reef".

Help from India, France

Thousands of Mauritians volunteered day and night to clean the powder-blue waters that have long attracted honeymooners and tourists, before the clean-up operation was fully handed over to experts.

Greenpeace has termed the spill the "worst ecological disaster" in the country's history, threatening wetlands that boast rare mangrove forests and scores of fish and coral species.

Japan is not the only country to send aid. A 10-member team from India's coastguard arrived in Mauritius on Sunday with 28 tonnes of equipment including booms, barges and skimmers.

And on Monday, Sebastien Lecornu, France's minister for overseas territories, said Paris would send three experts to help Mauritius determine what to do with the wreck.

France had already sent military planes, ships and equipment to help contain the oil spill, which also threatens the French island of La Reunion southwest of Mauritius. — AFP



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