Mauritius declares emergency over oil spill from grounded ship

Anxious residents of the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius have stuffed fabric sacks with sugar cane leaves to create makeshift oil spill barriers as tonnes of fuel leaking from a grounded ship put endangered wildlife in further peril.

The government on Saturday declared an environmental emergency as satellite images showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near wetlands that the government called “very sensitive”.

Wildlife workers and volunteers ferried dozens of baby tortoises and rare plants from an island near the spill, Ile aux Aigrettes, to the mainland as fears grew that worsening weather on Sunday could tear the Japanese-owned ship apart along its cracked hull.

Residents and environmentalists alike wondered why authorities did not act more quickly after the ship, the MV Wakashio, struck the reef on the southeast coast of the Indian Ocean island on July 25.

Mauritius says the ship was carrying nearly 4,000 tonnes of fuel.

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