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'The Ship Is Showing Really Big, Big Cracks'

Mauritius is scrambling to prevent environmental disaster
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2020 2:48 PM CDT

(Newser) – A Japanese ship carrying thousands of tons of oil ran aground in one of the worst possible places: a coral reef in a formerly pristine sanctuary for rare wildlife in Mauritius. More than 1,000 tons of oil have already leaked from the MV Wakashio, soiling beaches and lagoons, and authorities warn that large cracks have now appeared in the hull, meaning it could soon split in two and leak the remaining 2,500 tons still believed to be on board, the BBC reports. The ship's owner said two vessels managed to arrive on the scene Monday and set up a hose system to pull fuel off the ship. Volunteers in the Indian Ocean island nation, meanwhile, have rejected government advice to leave the cleanup to experts and have been filling sacks with straw to protect beaches from the oil.

"We are expecting the worst," says Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne, per the AP. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days," Gardenne says. "So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse." France sent a ship and aircraft after Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth appealed for international assistance Friday. Critics are calling for him to resign over his handling of the environmental disaster. The ship ran aground on July 25, but efforts to remove the oil did not begin until more than a week later. (Read more Mauritius stories.)

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