Two deaths in oil spill cleanup Mauritius

Two sailors died and two others went missing after their tugboat collided with another ship during a clean-up operation of the major oil spill near Mauritius. This was announced by the Prime Minister of the island state in the Indian Ocean.

“We are doing everything we can to trace them,” said Prime Minister Jugnauth after visiting injured sailors in the hospital, “by all means and with the help of fishermen in the area.”

The collision between the tug and an unmanned vessel towing it took place off the northeast coast. The boats were on their way back from the spot where the Japanese freighter Wakashio ran aground in July, and were transporting parts of that sunken ship back to port. Due to bad weather they collided with each other, after which the tugboat capsized. Out of a total of eight crew members, two were killed, two others went missing. The others could be rescued by helicopter.

“The anger is growing

“We first had the oil spill, then the dolphins, and now two people are dead,” said MP Mahend Gungerpersad to Reuters news agency. “This is causing more anger among the population.” Last Saturday, tens of thousands of islanders in the capital, Port Louis, demonstrated against the government’s way of dealing with the oil spill, with some 1,000 tons of fuel oil from the Wakashio spilling into the water in July.

The shipwreck, which broke in two, sank last Monday. Environmental organisation Greenpeace called that choice “the worst option”. Greenpeace called on the Mauritian government last week to quickly investigate the deaths of dozens of dolphins, possibly as a result of the oil spill.

Environmentalists and scientists have warned that the oil spill represents a major ecological disaster and predict that it will have a major impact on Mauritius’ economy. The island state is highly dependent on tourism. The economic damage could last for decades, they warn.