Chinese-flagged trawler with fuel aboard runs aground off Mauritius

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Mauritius deployed its coastguard and armed forces on Monday after a Chinese-flagged trawler containing 130 tons of oil ran aground off the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.

It is the second shipwreck in less than a year off Mauritius, after a tanker struck a reef in July and leaked 1,000 tons of fuel in the country’s worst environmental disaster in history.

The captain of the Lurong Yuan Yu issued distress calls late Sunday afternoon and sent up flares after becoming stranded off Pointe-aux-Sables, in the northwest of the main island not far from the capital Port Louis.

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Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo on Monday said the top priority was pumping fuel from the fishing trawler, and that 300 meters (1000 feet) of floating containment lines had been deployed to keep any oil from reaching the shore.

“There are traces of oil around the Lurong Yuan Yu. Divers will soon inspect the ship to see if there are any cracks,” the minister told reporters.

He earlier said the ship contained 130 tons of fuel oil and five tons of lubricants.

Soldiers and the coastguard were sent to the coast at Pointe-aux-Sables, where residents have already reported seeing traces of oil along the shoreline.

On July 25, the Japanese-owned bulk carrier MV Wakashio crashed off Mauritius with 4,000 tons of fuel aboard but did not begin leaking oil for more than a week.

By the time the government issued an urgent appeal for international help the slick had reached the shore, coating mangrove forests, fragile ecosystems and coral reefs.

An army of volunteers scrubbed the coastline but the stricken ship kept leaking. More than 1,000 tons of oil eventually spilled into the pristine waters that have long been a major draw for honeymooners, and contain precious mangroves and coral reefs.

The disaster was unprecedented for Mauritius, an archipelago of 1.3 million people where many derive their livelihood from tourism and fishing, and tens of thousands marched in protest over the government’s handling of the crisis.

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