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The Oil Spill At Mauritius Is A Disaster. And It Could Soon Get Worse

A Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the coast of Mauritius more than two weeks ago and has now leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the pristine waters and unique ecosystems of the island nation. Mauritius has declared a state of environmental emergency...

The ship, the Wakashio, was a cargo ship, not an oil tanker, carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel to power its engines (in comparison, supertankers can carry hundreds of thousands of metric tons of oil.) However, any oil spill larger than 700 metric tons is classified by industry groups as a large spill, and this spill has already released more oil than the combined total from every tanker spill documented in 2019...Reuters reports that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair (cut off and donated by residents) are being sewn into makeshift booms...

When the Wakashio initially ran aground on July 25, its hull was intact and no major oil spill was detected...But late last week, oil began to escape from the ship's tanks; the ship's owners issued a statement blaming bad weather and rough seas for the breach. The vessel's operators acknowledged "the regretful harm to the beautiful nature in Mauritius."...In addition to environmental devastation, the spill could have "dire consequences for Mauritius' economy, food security and health," Greenpeace Africa warns...

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