Mauritius: fear of major ecological crisis

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Mauritius: fear of major ecological crisisMauritius is preparing for the worst after a Japanese oil tanker struck a coral reef on 25 July and began leaking over 1,000 tons of oil.

The oil leak off the coast of Mauritius has raised fears of a major ecological crisis in the Indian Ocean island nation.

The MV Wakashio, which is owned by Nagashiki Shipping and operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, has since stopped leaking oil.

But Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has declared a state of emergency. On Tuesday he said the nation must still prepare for “a worst-case scenario”.

Several United Nations agencies have mobilized environmental experts to provide assistance.

Dramatic consequences

Fr. George Cheung, SJ, who is stationed in the capital, Port Louis, spoke to Vatican News about the damage caused.

"The consequences are dramatic," he said, because the oil slick is very large.

However, Port Louis residents have taken matters into their own hands, finding creative ways to soak up the oil that has reached the shore.

"They are making things with hair and straw that could eventually diminish the pollution," said Fr. Cheung.

Direct effects on locals

He said the oil spill is likely to cause damage to the coral reef, as well as local beaches and sea life.

"Of course, it will directly affect the people," he pointed out, "because some are fishermen and others work in the tourist industry, which will take months and months to recover."