The Mauritius oil spill, predicted to be one of the worst ecological disasters in the island nation’s history, worsened this weekend after the stranded ship responsible for the mess broke in two.
The Japanese oil tanker ran aground off the coast of Mauritius in late July and has since leaked some 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Last week, the country declared a “state of environmental emergency,” as the spill threatens thousands of local marine life species and pollutes its world-renowned coral reefs and beaches, lynchpins of its largely tourism-based economy.
On Saturday, “a major detachment of the vessel’s forward section was observed,” according to a press statement from the Mauritius National Crisis Committee. Most of the 4,000 metric tons of fuel in the ship’s reservoir had already been pumped up over the course of the week, Mauritian officials told the local newspaper Le Mauricien, but roughly 26 metric tons remained onboard in the engine room. Before it broke in two, the ship also leaked some residual oil into the ocean on Friday, Mauritius Marine Conservation Society President Jacqueline Sauzier told Reuters.
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