Updated: August 11, 2020 5:23:51 pm
A major oil spill near the island of Mauritius has prompted a massive response from the island’s residents with people coming forward to donate hair and help build booms with used plastic bottles to prevent its spread. Thousands of students, environmental activists and residents have been working round the clock trying to reduce the damage to the island’s pristine coasts from an oil spill due to a ship running aground a coral reef.
An estimated 2,500 tons of oil from the Japanese ship’s cargo of 4 tons has already escaped into the sea, officials said.
Workers were seeking to stop more oil from leaking, but with high winds and rough seas on Sunday there were reports of new cracks in the ship’s hull. Urgent efforts increased as the MV Wakashio, which was showing signs of splitting apart and dumping its remaining cargo oil into the waters surrounding Mauritius.
As the country declared a “national emergency”, people from all quarters of life have jumped into action, amid strong criticism against the government for acting late. Volunteers were seen scooping oil from the shores using buckets and extracting sludge with shovels, filling big oil barrels to take away the heavy fuel.
Across the island, people have been collecting plastic water bottles and jars to create floating booms so that long floating oil booms can be made to try slow the spread of the oil into the lagoon and the coast.
Mauritians are making floating booms of human hair and leaves in a round-the-clock scramble to mop up oil leaking from a grounded Japanese ship onto their beaches https://t.co/8jcUGIfIPs pic.twitter.com/DO4qiQDFaN
— Reuters (@Reuters) August 11, 2020
Volunteers were seen hastily sewing fabric, stuffing it with sugar cane leaves and straw, and keeping these booms afloat with plastic bottles.
— Carole Wojcieszczuk (@CWojcieszczuk) August 10, 2020
In some places, many volunteered to help with the transpiration of the filled barrels and containers, to remove the crude oil from the shores.
From packers and movers to grocery chains, many lent their vehicles to aide the volunteers who are entering the hazardous sludge.
People also started donating their hair to use in soaking up the oil.
Many studies have showed that fur and hair products, collected from dog groomers and hairdressers, are just as good as synthetic alternatives when it comes to cleaning up crude oil spills on land.
Pictures of marine animals covered in oil have flooded social media, with appeals for money to help volunteers continue their work.
“We are starting to see dead fish,” said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, a non-governmental organisation told local newspaper. “We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued.”
In Japan, officials of the company that owns the ship, Nagashiki Shipping, and the ship’s operator, Mitsui OSK Lines, deeply apologised for the oil leak. The officials said they have sent experts to Mauritius to join in the cleanup effort.
They are trying to do so in an environmentally safe way, without using emulsifiers and other environmentally harmful chemicals, said Kiyoaki Nagashiki, president of the shipowner Nagashiki Shipping.
The officials said the companies were continuing to remove fuel from the ship using a vessel small enough to safely operate in the shallow waters. They said the operation is time-consuming because of rough waves. The shipowner and operator are working with a salvage ship to lift the tanker while trying to prevent any further oil leaks.
The officials said the Wakashio left China on July 14 and was on its way to Brazil, and on its journey the ship ran aground July 25.
[With inputs from AP]
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