Japan sends second team to help oil spill cleanup off Mauritius

Japan is sending a second team of experts to Mauritius to help clean up tonnes of oil that leaked from a Japanese-owned ship after it ran aground earlier this month.

Six members of the team are travelling to Mauritius from Japan, with the leader of the group joining from New York.

“The oil leak from the stranded ship has caused severe damage to the people of Mauritius, the economy of which largely relies on tourism and the beautiful ocean,” environment ministry official Yukihiro Haisa told reporters before the departure.

“I am terribly distressed.”

Haisa said the government of Mauritius has asked the team to assess the leak’s effect on local coral reefs.

The MV Wakashio struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island on July 25 and began spilling oil on Aug. 6, prompting the government to announce a state of environmental emergency.

The spill spread over a vast area of endangered corals, affecting fish and other marine life in what some scientists have called the country’s worst ecological disaster. Emergency crews managed to remove most of the ship’s remaining oil before it split in two on Saturday.

Scientists say the full impact of the spill is still unfolding but the damage could affect Mauritius and its tourism-dependent economy for decades. Removing the ship is likely to take months.

Authorities noted it was the second accident in the area in four years and said the government might establish a signal station nearby to try to ward off future disasters.