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Mauritius Oil Spill Worsens As Tanker Splits Apart

A Japanese tanker that ran aground in Mauritius in late July has split apart, pouring the rest of the fuel it carried into the ocean.

The disaster off Mauritius began on July 25 when bulk carrier Wakashio, owned by Japan's Nagashiki Shipping and on its way to Brazil, ran aground off the coast of the Indian Ocean island.

By August 11, around 1,180 metric tons of oil – out of the total 4,000 metric tons on board – had leaked out from the vessel fuel tank, with an estimated 1,000 metric tons leaked outside of the vessel, and 460 metric tons are estimated to have been manually recovered from sea and coast, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, the charterer of the vessel, said on Tuesday.

"We confirmed that the crack inside the hull of the ship had expanded. Since this ship is unable to navigate by itself, it is moored to a tugboat so that it will not drift even if it is broken," Mitsui O.S.K. Lines said.

According to the Mauritius National Crisis Committee, the ship split into two on Saturday, as reported by Fox News.

"Booms had been placed already around the ship and the skimmer boat is also present as precautionary measures," the committee said.

In a press release published on its Facebook page, Mobilisation Nationale Wakashio said authorities had prepared for the split and the subsequent clean-up.

So dedicated are the efforts to soak up the oil, people in Mauritius and abroad are even cutting off their hair and donating it for makeshift adsorbent sacks to soak up the oil, as prior scientific research has shown that human hair is a good adsorbent of oil.

"Around 814 metric tons of oil liquid waste, 318 metric tons of solid waste sludge and contaminated debris, and 250 cubic metres of saturated artisanal booms have been collected as at mid-day on 15 August 2020," the crisis committee said.

There has been serious concern about the environmental effect of the accident given the cargo of the vessel. Most of the oil that remained in the tanker after the initial spill was pumped out before the vessel cracked. According to reports, this amount was about 3,000 tons. Even so, environmentalists worry that not all of the spilled fuel would be recovered, threatening the local marine ecosystems.

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By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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