Clean-up of Mauritius oil spill to take 'at least 10 months'

France sends experts to assess how best to dispose of two halves of oil tanker

The MV Wakashio, a bulk carrier ship that recently ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius, can be seen from the coast of Mauritius, Sunday Aug. 16, 2020. The grounded Japanese ship that leaked tons of oil near protected areas off this Indian Ocean island nation has split apart, with remaining fuel spreading into the turquoise waters. (AP Photo/ Sumeet Mudhoo-L'express Maurice)
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Clearing up the oil spill and wreckage of a stricken tanker off of Mauritius could continue well into the coming year, a French minister said after visiting the Indian Ocean island.

Sebastien Lecornu, minister for France's overseas territories, said he believed the clean-up operation would involve "at least 10 months of work".

Mr Lecornu, who returned to the French island of La Reunion south-west of Mauritius late on Sunday, said France was sending three additional experts to help the Mauritian government determine what to do with the wreck of the tanker, which has split in two.

France was in favour of an "environmental approach and protection of biodiversity, and particularly the coast of La Reunion," Mr Lecornu told the Franceinfo news service on Monday.

Possibilities include sinking part of the ship in the open sea, which "is clearly not our preferred solution", or to tow the wreck elsewhere and destroy it, which would require "more time", the minister said.

France has already sent military planes, ships and equipment to help contain the oil spill, which also threatens La Reunion.

Mr Lecornu said no oil deposits had reached Reunion.

The Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef off the south-east coast of Mauritius on July 25 and began oozing oil more than a week later, threatening a protected marine park with mangrove forests and endangered species.

The ship broke in two over the weekend after leaking about 1,000 tonnes of oil into the sea.

Salvage crews raced against the clock to pump the remaining 3,000 tonnes of oil off the stricken vessel after Mauritius declared an environmental emergency.

India on Sunday sent more than 30 tonnes of technical equipment and material to Mauritius by plane to support the salvage operations, the Indian foreign affairs ministry said.

A 10-member team of Indian coastguard personnel trained in oil spill containment measures was also sent to provide technical and operational assistance, it said.