The owner and operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean apologised this Sunday for a huge oil spill which officials and environmentalists say is creating a massive ecological disaster for Africa.
According to Reuters, The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. Fuel started leaking heavily from the cracked vessel since Thursday.
“We apologise profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Akihiko Ono, executive vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines said at a news conference in Tokyo. He added that the company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue”.
At least 1,000 tonnes of oil is estimated to have leaked from the ship onto the waters surrounding Mauritius. Some 500 tonnes of oil have been salvaged from the ship, but there are still 2,500 tonnes remaining on the ship.
Meanwhile, French President, Emmanuel Macron according to AFP pledged on Saturday to send teams and equipment to help Mauritius deal with an oil spill that environmentalists fear could be a major ecological disaster. He said France was deploying teams and equipment from neighbouring Reunion Island.
A military aircraft from Reunion carrying pollution-control equipment will make two flights over the spill site on Saturday, while a naval vessel carrying booms and absorbents will also set sail, authorities on Reunion said.
“When biodiversity is in danger, there is an urgent need to act. France is there. Alongside the Mauritian people. You can count on our support,” Macron said in a tweet.
“This is the first time that we are faced with a catastrophe of this kind, and we are insufficiently equipped to handle this problem,” said Mauritius, Fishing Minister Sudheer Maudhoo.
Japan is also dispatching a six-person disaster relief team, on the request of the Mauritius government, to help with removing the spilt oil, according to a statement by the Japanese Foreign Ministry on Sunday.
“We hope that this assistance will contribute to recovery of the environment of Mauritius and prevention of marine pollution,” the statement said.
Mauritius, famous for its pristine beaches, is popular with tourists who last year contributed 63 billion Mauritius rupees ($1.6 billion) to the economy. A serious oil spill will virtually eliminate such earnings if not checked promptly.