Mauritius

Mauritius: MV Wakashio Oil Spill - Flash Update No. 4 (17 August 2020)

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Situation Report
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HIGHLIGHTS

• The MV Wakashio has split into two and is being closely monitored in case of need for further response, with teams and materials pre-positioned to contain potential spill-over.

• Nearly 10.9 kilometres of protective booms have been deployed in key areas, including Blue Bay (nearly 1.76 kilometres), Pointe d’Esny (3.86 kilometres), Ile aux Aigrettes (1.94 kilometres), Pointe Jerome (1.5 kilometres), Mahebourg (300 metres) and around the MV Wakashio, outside the lagoon (90 metres).

• Shoreline clean-up continues, with over 880 metric tons of oily waste collected at 14 sites.

SITUATION OVERVIEW

The MV Wakashio broke into two on 15 August. The vessel still held around 90 tons of oil on board when it ruptured. An estimated 40 tons were removed on 15 August, while efforts are ongoing to pump the remaining oil from the ship and extract it via helicopter in order to minimise oil spill from the vessel after splitting. Following the 8th National Crisis Management Committee chaired by the Prime Minister on 17 August, action is being taken to tow the bow section of the casualty to eight Nautical Miles from the outer limit of the reef at 2,000 metres depth. This plan was validated and approved by the three experts sent by France to Mauritius, according to a statement released by the National Crisis Management Committee. Salvage operations are expected to be made more challenging by rough seas, which are forecast through to 21 August.

Environmental surveys are underway, under the leadership of the Ministry of Environment, to assess the extent of the oil spill. An estimated 30 kilometres of shoreline have been heavily affected, and the presence of contaminated algae has been identified in multiple locations, including Deux Freres, Bambous Virieux, Anse Jonchee Vieux and Providence, while mangroves affected with oil have been identified at Bois des Amourettes, Riviere des Creoles, Anse Fauverelle, Deux Freres, Pointe du Diables and GRSE. Structured monitoring will soon be performed of the flora and fauna in the region.

The National Environment Laboratory—together with the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ministry of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping and Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security—are monitoring the quality of air and marine resources. No volatile organic compound has been detected. Environmental groups are also continuing to explore the extent of the damage. The MV Wakashio oil spill has affected highly ecologically sensitive sites, such as the Blue Bay Marine Park, Ile aux Aigrettes and Pointe D’Esny, which is protected under the Ramsar Convention. At the same time, the livelihoods of people in affected areas have been impacted, particularly those who rely on fishing.

RESPONSE

The nationally-led response is continuing, with the Prime Minister chairing daily crisis meetings. Every morning, a technical coordination meeting is organized with the participation of the technical stakeholders actively involved in marine pollution control and disposal to fine-tune the planning and response strategy.

Volunteers, civil society organizations, fishers, fish mongers and boat operators in the affected regions are involved in cleaning the shorelines, under the supervision of the authorities. Artisanal booms which were rapidly crafted and deployed by volunteers, have served their purpose and will be replaced by new booms. Additional equipment has arrived from India, and additional skimmers and personnel have been deployed by France.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.