Port Louis (dpa) - The freighter “Wakashio” was stranded on a coral reef off Mauritius for almost two weeks, and residents could see it from the beach.

Then one side of the ship sank and oil began to spread in the turquoise water, as Sunil Dowarkasing recalls. «The whole lagoon is full of oil. The oil has reached the shore », the Mauritian and former Greenpeace employees described the scenery on Friday. "There is massive pollution everywhere."

The “Wakashio” ran aground on July 25th off the east coast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. According to its Japanese owner, the ship was traveling from Singapore to Brazil without cargo. How exactly the accident happened was initially unclear. The hull broke on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Environment of the island state.

Around a quarter of the 4,000 tons of oil have already leaked, said Deborah de Chazal, executive director of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation. This is possibly "one of the worst ecological crises this small island nation has ever experienced," said Greenpeace.

The authorities are now trying to get the disaster under control. "To prevent negative environmental effects as much as possible, we built a fence and started pumping out the oil," said a spokesman for the Japanese company Nagashiki Shipping, which owns the freighter. Mauritius doesn't have enough equipment to deal with the oil spill alone, de Chazal said. Aid from abroad was therefore requested.

The government met with representatives from organizations and the private sector on Friday, the Ministry of Environment said, to work out a plan for how to clean the area. Until then, the ministry warned the public to avoid the affected areas. Because the oil vapors are "highly toxic and harmful to health".

But above all, the unanswered questions cause anger among the residents. Why did the authorities appear to be idle for two weeks? The oil should have been pumped out right after the accident to prevent it from escaping, Dowarkasing said. This was gross negligence on the part of the authorities - "a crime against the environment".

Mauritius with its 1.3 million inhabitants is known worldwide for its magnificent corals, dazzling white beaches and a colorful abundance of marine life and land animals. According to the Ministry of the Environment, the mainland is surrounded by 150 kilometers of protected coral reefs. According to the government, this natural splendor attracted 1.4 million tourists last year.

The crashed freighter lies in the middle of a rich natural area on the east coast of the main island in front of the town of Mahébourg. Near the wreck are two protected areas and a small island that is a model for nature conservation and biodiversity. Dowarkasing warned that all of this could be destroyed by the oil. “It will take years before it becomes the way it used to be. Or it will never be like this again. »

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 200807-99-83127 / 3

Website Mauritian Wildlife Foundation

Ministry of Environment of Mauritius report

Website Marinetraffic to the ship