A general view shows the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, belonging to a Japanese company but Panamanian-flagged, that ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, August 11, 2020.
  • A stranded Japanese tanker that was leaking hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil off the Mauritius coast has broken apart, according to officials.
  • A massive cleanup operation had been underway in an attempt to pump some of the oil out, but on Saturday, the ship's condition worsened.
  • The Japanese-owned MV Wakashio ran aground on July 25, causing some of its 4,000-ton load of oil to spill into the Indian Ocean.
  • The break-up of the ship is worrying environmental groups, who have warned the damage to coral reefs and coastal areas could be irreversible.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A stranded tanker that was leaking hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil off the Mauritius coast has broken apart, according to the country's National Crisis Committee.

The Japanese-owned MV Wakashio ran aground on July 25, which led some of its 4,000-ton load of fuel oil to spill into the Indian ocean's pristine waters.

A massive cleanup operation had been underway in an attempt to pump some of the oil out, but on Saturday, the condition of the ship — which already had several cracks in the hull — worsened.

"At around 4.30 pm [12:30 GMT], a major detachment of the vessel's forward section was observed," the Mauritius National Crisis Committee said in a statement on Saturday, according to the BBC.

Tal Harris, a communications coordinators for Greenpeace Africa International, also told CNN that authorities had told volunteers to stop any clean-up activities and have "decreed the area a forbidden zone." 

Mauritian Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said that more than 3,000 of the 4,000 tonnes of oil from the ship's reservoirs had been pumped out.

However, the ship's break-up is worrying environmental groups, who have warned the damage to coral reefs, biodiversity, and coastal areas could be irreversible.

Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, an oceanographer, told the BBC that residents were now "breathing heavy vapors of oil," and there was a "mixture of sadness and anger" over the spill.

"The image of Mauritius has been deeply impacted. When we look at those very sad images of oil seeping in one of the most pristine areas of the southeastern coast of Mauritius we feel very sad in Mauritius — and at the same time very angry about the situation and why it has occurred," he said.

Mauritius said it would seek compensation for the oil spill, which Japanese firm Nagashiki Shipping has already pledged to do. 

Mauritius, which is a popular tourist destination, is home to world-renowned coral reefs.

According to Kauppaymuthoo, the oil spill came at a "very bad time" for the country, which is already suffering from coronavirus travel restrictions.

"This part of the island may be severely impacted — and I am not sure it's going to really recover after this event," he said, according to Al Jazeera.

Read the original article on Insider

Receive a daily update on your cellphone with all our latest news: click here.

Get the best of our site emailed to you daily: click here.

Also from Business Insider South Africa: