English Africa Service – Vatican City
During the Sunday Angelus prayer in St Peter Square, Pope Francis said he was thinking of Mauritius.
On 25 July 2020, the Japanese bulk carrier ship Wakashio, owned by a subsidiary of Nagashiki Shipping Co., Ltd of Okayama, Japan, became stranded off the coast of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean, and in the process has spilt about 1,000 tons of heavy oil.
The oil spill is a significant blow to the Island country, which depends on tourism. Already, the effects of COVID-19 are being felt in the tourist industry.
The sea is more than a source for livelihood
Cardinal Maurice E. Piat who is the Bishop of Port-Louis in Mauritius, said recently during Mass that the situation was very worrying. He called upon compatriots to unite and overcome the effects of the spill.
“I think especially of the people of Mahebourg and the villages on the southeast coast for whom the oil spill is not only an ecological disaster but a human disaster: the sea for them is their livelihood, and more (than that) it is a place of life, their passion. With the devastated lagoon, it’s a lifetime, a whole culture that collapses,” the Cardinal said.
The outpouring of solidarity comforts Cardinal Piat
The Cardinal recently told the Catholic News Service that he had been touched by the outpouring of solidarity concerning the oil spill.
“Numerous families are afflicted by a pestilential and persistent odour — fishermen and all those living from the sea are suffering particularly, while ecological treasures in our coastal bays and islets are gravely damaged,” said Cardinal Piat adding, “Amid the pain shared by so many, I salute the beautiful outpouring of active and enterprising solidarity now showing itself in a bid to save what might still be saved.”
Ecosystems at risk
An AP report lists native sea turtles, waterfowl habitats of wetlands and mangrove forests designated as wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention to be at risk. The ecosystem of the birds could be destroyed. It is said that the coral reefs around Mauritius contain over 40% of the world’s 800 species of hard coral. Adhesion of heavy oil makes coral unable to breathe.
Thousands protest the government’s slow action
AP/LaPresse reports that tens of thousands of people protested Saturday, in Mauritius, over the government’s slow response to the oil spill and the alarming discovery of dozens of dead dolphins in recent days.