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Mauritius: New oil leak from damaged ship

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AFP

Mauritius

A fresh streak of oil spilled Friday from a bulk carrier stranded on a reef in pristine waters off Mauritius which is already reeling from the ecological disaster, as demands mounted for answers as to why the vessel had come so close to shore.

While the boat's reservoirs were successfully emptied on Wednesday, preventing further massive damage, some of the remaining 100 tonnes of oil stored elsewhere on the boat began to leak on Friday.

The Japanese-owned MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef on July 25 and a week later began leaking over 1,000 tonnes of oil into a protected marine park boasting mangrove forests and endangered species.

Mauritius declared an unprecedented environmental emergency last week.

France and Japan have responded to the Indian Ocean island's call for help, along with thousands of ordinary Mauritians who volunteered day and night to clean sludge from the picturesque tropical coastline.

With the boat threatening to split in two, salvage crews raced against the clock,to pump almost 3,000 tonnes of remaining fuel off the boat.

"Since this morning the water has again turned black around the Wakashio," said fisherman Alain Francois. "Authorities tell us it is the waves entering the boat which is removing the fuel in the hold." he adds.

A source working on the salvage operation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the oil sludge came from the machine room where it was impossible to pump the oil out.

"We can't penetrate this part of the vessel. It is too dangerous. There is a risk of asphyxiation," he said.

However, the fresh oil is expected to be captured by floating barriers stuffed with straw and stitched together by Mauritians who have rallied to aid the clean-up operation.

The spill is an ecological and economic disaster for the Island nation which relies heavily on tourism.

The government has come under fire for doing too little in the week after the ship ran aground, while experts from the Japanese Nagashiki shipping company, which owns the Wakashio, took three weeks to arrive.