Bad weather delays removal of fuel tanker off Mauritius’s coast

Bad weather is delaying an operation to remove the wreck of a Japanese fuel tanker that ran aground on a coral reef off Mauritius last month and split apart on Saturday.

The tanker, which was carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil when it ran aground near the Indian Ocean island on July 25, has leaked about 1,000 tonnes of its cargo into the popular honeymoon resort’s pristine coastal waters.

The front part of the vessel, which on Saturday afternoon split in two on the reefs of Pointe d’Esny, had drifted away by about 30 metres, director of maritime affairs Alain Donat told local newspaper Le Mauricien.

On Saturday, the front part was supposed to be towed away and sunk at least 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) away from Mauritius, but bad weather delayed the operation, according to the report.

The rear section of the ship will initially be left on the breakers, Donat was quoted as saying.

“The part has drifted, so there is a lot of effort to try to get it to the high sea,” independent environmental consultant Sunil Korwarkasing told dpa news agency.

Forty tonnes of fuel oil remained inside the MV Wakashio on Sunday, which authorities were trying to remove before it spilled into the ocean, said Korwarkasing, quoting the national police commissioner.

Scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding, but the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades. Removing the ship is likely to take months.

Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi told reporters on Saturday that he was planning to dispatch a team of ministry officials and experts to Mauritius to grasp the extent of the damage.

On Thursday, Nagashiki Shipping said it had removed almost all of the remaining 3,000 tonnes of fuel oil.

Mauritius declared an environmental state of emergency last week, but authorities have been accused of being slow to act.

India has sent technical equipment and a team of specialists to Mauritius to help local authorities deal with the environmental crisis.

Following a government request for assistance, India dispatched over 30 tonnes of technical equipment and material by aircraft to supplement the country’s salvage operations, the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement said on Sunday.

A 10-member team of Indian coastguard personnel trained in oil spill containment measures has also been deployed to Mauritius to provide technical and operational assistance, it said.

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