Thousands of people flocked to the south-eastern coast of Mauritius on Sunday to participate in its protection against the oil spill which threatens to flow from the bulk carrier Wakashio, stranded on a reef a hundred meters offshore.
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“People understood that they had to take matters into their own hands to protect the flora and fauna,” Ashok Subron, an environmental activist from the neighboring city of Mahebourg, told AFP.
On the shore, hundreds of volunteers struggled to weave hemp and fabric floating booms to contain the slick of fuel escaping from the ship, stranded on a reef at Pointe d’Esny, not far from the Mauritius international airport.
Others, covered in fuel and oil, wearing masks and rubber gloves, were trying to collect the products that had escaped from the ship in buckets.
About 1,000 of the 4,000 tonnes of fuel carried by the Wakashio have already spilled at sea, Akihiko Ono, vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines, which operated the ship, owned by another Japanese company and seafarer, told reporters. under the Panamanian flag.
Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth, who declared an “environmental state of emergency”, called a crisis meeting of the authorities concerned for Sunday and thanked France for its help.
France has military bases on the neighboring island of Réunion.
A French navy vessel, Le Champlain, left for Mauritius on Saturday, while an Air Force plane was scheduled to make two rotations over the spill site, both equipped with specialized pollution control equipment and having experts on board.
Japan has announced for its part the dispatch of a team of six experts to work alongside French and local aid.
A Mitsui spokesperson told AFP in Tokyo that their efforts to attempt to evacuate the cargo by helicopter had been met with bad weather, which also prevented the installation of a floating restraint system around. of the ship.
The Mauritian police have planned to approach the Wakashio on Sunday with the captain of the ship – a 58-year-old Indian – in order to seize all the documents relating to its navigation and in particular the recordings of communications.
The twenty crew members of the bulk carrier had been safely evacuated after its accident on July 25.