Anxious residents of the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius stuffed cloth sacks with sugar cane leaves Saturday to create inadequate barriers to oil spills as tons of fuel leakage from a grounded vessel put endangered wildlife in more risk. The government has declared an environmental emergency and France has announced it is sending help from its neighboring island of Reunion. Satellite imagery showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters around wetlands deemed “extremely vulnerable” by the State.
Wildlife staff and volunteers were ferrying hundreds of baby tortoises and rare plants from an island near the spill, Ile aux Aigrettes, to the mainland as concerns rose that deteriorating weather on Sunday would break apart the Japanese-owned ship along its cracked hull. A French statement from Reunion on Saturday said a military transport aircraft was bringing pollution control equipment to Mauritius and a navy vessel will set sail for the island nation with additional materials.
People and environmentalists alike were asking why officials didn’t move sooner after the ship ran aground on a reef on July 25. Mauritius says the container, the MV Wakashio, carried around 4,000 tons of fuel. The Mauritius Marine Conservation Society and other local groups cautioned that it could take much longer than anticipated for the cleanup.