A dark oil slick spreads in the turquoise water. The satellite images show it, the government of Mauritius has now also announced it: An environmental catastrophe is looming off the south-eastern coast of the holiday paradise. Over the weekend, local residents tried to use sacks to build a barrier against the threatening oil spill to prevent the nearby nature reserves from being affected. The small, nearby Île aux Aigrettes - an island declared a nature reserve - was directly affected by the oil spill, reported conservationists. Volunteers are bringing dozens of baby turtles and rare plants to safety on the main island, the Washington Post reports .

More than two weeks ago, a Japanese freighter with almost 4,000 tons of oil on board ran aground off the south-east coast of Mauritius. Then on Thursday one of the tanks began to run out of fuel. It is feared that the ship could tear apart at its breaking point due to the bad weather. Local residents and environmentalists criticized the authorities for not reacting any faster after the MV Wakashio had an accident.

The United Nations (UN) has now announced that, together with the UN Environment Program (Unep) and the UN Emergency Aid Office (Ocha), it will provide coordination capacities and expertise to deal with the crisis. France also announced aid. "When biodiversity is at risk, urgent action is needed," tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron. An aircraft and a naval ship with experts and material will be sent from La Réunion, said the island's prefect. La Réunion belongs to France and is about 230 kilometers southwest of Mauritius.

Mauritius with its 1.3 million inhabitants is located in the Indian Ocean and is a popular holiday destination, especially for divers. However, it is severely threatened by climate change.