Johannesburg, 1 September 2020 – On August 31, around 19.30 Mauritius local time, a barge carrying oil from the stricken Japanese iron-ore vessel The Wakashio collided with a tug boat pulling it. The tug boat involved in the Wakashio salvage operation sunk in the coral lagoon north east of the island. The oil in the barge was being transported to the Port-Louis harbour area, and there is now a threat of a second oil spill. Two of the eight crew members have lost their lives, four of them have been rescued. The search for two crew members is still ongoing.
Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager, said:
“Greenpeace is saddened by the tragic loss of the two crew members, and we extend our condolences to the families who have lost loved ones. We wish speedy recoveries to those who have been injured, and hope that the missing crew members will be found soon. One life lost is one too many.
“The oil spill from the stranded ship is not only threatening the livelihood of Mauritians and biodiversity, it is now claiming people’s lives. This incident is yet another reminder of how dangerous oil is. The Mauritius government should never again allow any oil transports in their waters.”
On 24 August, Greenpeace and Dis Moi sent a joint letter to the government of Mauritius demanding a number of fully public independent investigations, as well as transparency and accountability to the public. The letter urged the government to protect Mauritian waters from transit ships to avoid a repeat of an oil spill in future.
Vijay Naraidoo, co-director of Dis Moi, said: “A second major oil spill would devastate this pristine environment. We received the last official statement on the oil pumped out of Wakashio on 11 August, but since then there has been no update. The details of the operation have not been disclosed. This lack of transparency is alarming. Authorities should share their plans with the public immediately and undertake the operation at the highest possible standard.”
Photos available here with credit.