A ship that ran aground off the coast of Mauritius last month has now split in two, spilling more oil into the Indian Ocean.
The Japanese-owned MV Wakashio struck a coral reef on July 25, 12 days before the approximately 4,000 metric tons of oil on board started to spill out into the crystal-clear water.
It was estimated the tanker had leaked about 1,300 metric tons of oil into the ocean, but that a split would worsen the ecological disaster.
Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth previously warned: “The boat can still break in two.
“The cracks have developed. The situation is even more serious.
“Arrangements have been made so that the part which is already underwater is towed in case of breakage.
“The part still out of the water must be stabilized because it is this which contains the bulk of the heavy oil load of the ship.”
Oceanographer Vassen Kauppaymuthoo previously warned of the damage if the vessel was to break apart.
He told RFI: “The damage we are seeing now is nothing compared to what may happen when the Wakashio will break.
“The whole east coast, from Blue Bay to Grand Gaube, will be affected.”
Over the weekend, locals donned hazmat suits in an effort to clean up the area.
Local fisherman Baretta Matombe said: “The stench is unbearable and it is making us sick.”
Sebastien Sauvage, spokesperson of local environmental group Eco-Sud, said it would take “years” to clean up the mess.
The ship was believed to be traveling to Brazil from China when it hit a coral reef on the Pointe d’Esny reef, situated at the southeast part of the island.
Environmental expert Sunil Dowarkasin, who took part in the response to the disaster, warned the island would “never be able to recover from this damage.”
Some 340 species of fish live in the waters where the ship has run aground, while Prime inister Jugnauth said the spill was a threat to the livelihoods of the 1.3 million people living in the area.
A state of emergency was declared in Mauritius on Friday.