The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius has declared a state of environmental emergency after a vessel offshore began spilling tones of fuel into the ocean.

Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth, announced the development on late Friday. The announcement came after satellite images showed a dark slick spreading in the turquoise waters near environmental areas. The government called these areas very sensitive. He has appealed to France for urgent help. He said that the spill represents a danger for the country of some 1.3 million people. They rely heavily on tourism, which is hugely affected because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jugnauth said that the nation doesn’t have the skills and expertise to refloat stranded ships. He also said that terrible weather has made it impossible to act, and it worries him that what will happen on Sunday when the weather worsens.

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Mauritius has said that the tanker, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged ran aground offshore days ago was carrying nearly 4,000 tons of fuel when it struck a reef at Pointe d’Esny, an internationally listed conservation site near the turquoise waters of the Blue Bay marine park. Cracks have appeared in the ship’s hull.

MV Wakashio ran aground on 25 July and its crew was evacuated. Rough seas have hampered efforts to stop fuel leaking from MV Wakashio and its polluting pristine waters.

France has pledged support and the ship’s owner said it was working to combat the spill. The French island of Reunion lies near Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.

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