Mauritius’ Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency on Friday as the Indian ocean island battled to contain an oil spill.
The oil seeped from a Japanese freighter that ran aground last month off the coast of the popular tourist island. Jugnauth made the brief statement in a tweet.
Several hours earlier he tweeted: “Our country does not have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships, so I asked for help from France,” tagging French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron’s social media pages have not yet responded.
Photographs from the air showed the oil slick spreading through the turquoise waters surrounding the island. Other images in local L’Express newspaper showed blackened beaches and dead marine life.
Greenpeace said the spill from the bulk carrier would have devastating consequences.
The “MV Wakashio ran aground around July 25 and is now leaking tons of diesel and oil into the ocean,” said Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaign manager.
“Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food security and health.”
He said all the 20 crew members were safe.
Deborah de Chazal, Executive Director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, which is working with the government to address the disaster, told dpa the boat was carrying 4,000 tons of oil.