JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The prime minister of Mauritius says the government is appealing to France for help with a brewing environmental disaster after a ship that ran aground days ago off the Indian Ocean island nation began leaking oil.
The leak “represents a danger for Mauritius,” Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said Friday in a statement posted on social media. “Our country doesn’t have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships, so I have appealed for help from France and President Emmanuel Macron.”
Jugnauth shared a photo of the vessel, the MV Wakashio, tilted precariously as a dark slick spread in the turquoise waters.
Bad weather has made it impossible to act, and “I worry what could happen Sunday when the weather deteriorates,” he said.
Video posted online showed oily waters lapping at the shore as people murmured and peered at the ship in the distance.
France's Foreign Ministry says France is Mauritius's “leading foreign investor” and one of its largest trading partners. The French island of Reunion is the closest neighbor to Mauritius.
Online ship trackers showed the Panama-flagged bulk carrier had been en route from China to Brazil.
“We are in a situation of environmental crisis,” the Mauritius environment minister, Kavy Ramano, said.
The Japanese ship ran aground July 25, environmental group Greenpeace Africa’s climate and energy manager Happy Khambule said in a statement, adding that tons of diesel and oil were now leaking into the water.
“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,” Khambule said.