Mauritius is reeling from a spreading oil spill – and people are angry with how the government has handled it

On the evening of Saturday July 25, the MV (Merchant Vessel) Wakashio grounded on coral reefs in the south-east of the Indian Ocean tropical island of Mauritius. The ship, a Japanese-owned but Panama-registered bulk carrier designed to transport unpackaged goods such as coal or grain, was empty of cargo but had an estimated 200 tons of diesel and 3,800 tons of heavy fuel oil onboard. The ship sat for over a week before cracks emerged in its hull.

Fuel oil began to leak into the expansive turquoise blue lagoon outside the coastal village of Mahébourg. Striking satellite images show the resulting oil spill weaving a black slick between the mainland at Pointe D’Esny and the flat round island of Ile-aux-Aigrettes. The impacts seen closer up are gruesome. On August 7, nearly two weeks after the shipwreck, the government declared the incident a national emergency.

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