The owner of the Japanese ship that ran aground off Mauritius spilling 1,000 metric tons of oil apologized for what environmentalists are calling a major ecological disaster.
“We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Akihiko Ono, the head of Mitsui OSK Lines, said Sunday in Tokyo.
Ono promised the company will “do everything in its power to resolve the issue.”
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced it is sending a disaster-relief team to Mauritius
“We hope that this assistance will contribute to recovery of the environment of Mauritius and prevention of marine pollution,” the ministry said.
France is also sending aid. The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius is a former French colony.
Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has declared a state of emergency and appealed for more international help.
He says the oil spill is a danger for the island that relies on tourism and is already hurting from coronavirus travel restrictions.
Meanwhile, thousands of residents of Mauritius rushed to the beaches and immediately went to work trying to contain the spill.
They have deployed homemade floating oil booms made of fabric, straw and sugar cane leaves tied with plastic jugs to keep them from sinking.
Others are using empty oil drums to scoop up as much as possible.
“The coral reefs had begun to regenerate and the lagoon was getting back its coral gardens,” environmentalist and former politician Sunil Dowarkasing said. “Now this might all be killed again by the oil spill.”
The Japanese carrier MV Wakashio struck a coral reef off Mauritius on July 25 and oil began leaking from the ship late Thursday. Officials say there is still about 2,500 metric tons of oil on board.
People who live on the island spent two weeks nervously watching the ship as it tilted dangerously while strong waves made salvage efforts difficult.
Officials say they did not see the cracks in the ship until last week.
The Wakashio departed China on July 14 and was headed for Brazil. Officials are investigating why the vessel veered off course.