Environmentalists say the spill is creating an ecological disaster, endangering corals, fish and other marine life around the Indian Ocean island.

A still image taken from a drone video shows a cleanup crew working at the site of an oil spill after the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, August 8, 2020.
A still image taken from a drone video shows a cleanup crew working at the site of an oil spill after the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, August 8, 2020. (Reuters)

The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean apologised for a major oil spill which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster.

The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius' southeast coast on July 25.

"We apologise profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused," Akihiko Ono, executive vice president of Mitsui OSK Lines said at a new conference in Tokyo.

He added that the company would "do everything in its power to resolve the issue".

At least 1,000 tonnes of oil is estimated to have leaked from the ship onto the waters surrounding Mauritius. 

Some 500 tonnes of oil have been salvaged from the ship, but there are still 2,500 tonnes remaining on the ship.

Neither Mitsui OSK Lines nor Nagashiki Shipping, the ship's owner, could confirm the cost of damages from the oil spill.

Mauritius declared a state of environmental emergency on Friday following the accident.

Wildlife in serious danger

Wildlife workers and volunteers ferried dozens of baby tortoises and rare plants from an island near the spill, Ile aux Aigrettes, to the mainland as fears grew that worsening weather on Sunday could tear the Japanese-owned ship apart along its cracked hull.

The spill is creating an ecological disaster, endangering corals, fish and other marine life around the Indian Ocean island, officials and environmentalists say.

A French statement from Reunion said a military transport aircraft was carrying pollution control equipment to Mauritius and a navy vessel with additional material would set sail for the island nation.

READ MORE: ‘I am so angry’: Cargo ship leaks tons of fuel into protected coral reef and wetlands

Videos posted online have shown oily waters lapping at the mainland, and a man running a stick across the water’s surface then lifting it, dripping black goo. 

The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation is working to free trapped seabirds and turtles.

Environmental group Greenpeace Africa warned that tons of diesel and oil are leaking into the water. It shared video showing Mauritius residents, to chants of “One, two, three!,” shoving the makeshift oil barriers into the sea, while crowds of children and adults hurried to make more.

The Mauritius Marine Conservation Society and other local groups warned that the cleanup could take much longer than expected.

“The great urge for all of us is to ‘get on with it,'” the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation said. “But currently we understand that it may be a waste of time to ‘clean up’ an area where oil may continue to flow in.”

Mauritius, famous for its pristine beaches, is popular with tourists who last year contributed $1.6 billion to the economy.

READ MORE: Mauritius scrambles to counter oil spill from grounded ship

Source: TRTWorld and agencies