2 Mauritians killed in accident near site of Japanese ship oil spill

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows the bulk carrier ship MV Wakashio, that ran aground on a reef, at Riviere des Creoles, Mauritius, in this handout image

Two crew members from a tugboat involved in cleaning up an oil spill off Mauritius were killed late on Monday when their vessel collided with a barge in bad weather, a local lawmaker said.

Four other members of the crew were rescued by helicopter and two were still missing, Mahend Gungerpersad, a member of parliament for the opposition Labour Party, told NYK Daily on Tuesday.

“This incident is going to add to the prevailing anger,” he said, referring to weekend protests over the handling of the operation to contain the oil spill and the deaths of dozens of dolphins in the area.

“We had the oil spill, then we had the deaths of the dolphins and now two people who have been killed.”

The MV Wakashio, a Japanese bulk carrier, struck a coral reef off the Indian Ocean island nation’s coast in July, spilling thousands of tonnes of crude oil into the sea and choking marine life in a pristine lagoon.

According to Gungerpersad, the tugboat and barge sent out a distress signal at between 7.30 and 8.00 p.m. on Monday. The tugboat capsized after the collision. Both ships were moving parts salvaged from the site of the oil spill into the port.

Mauritians have been angered by what Gungerpersad called “mismanagement” and “incompetence” by the government in its handling of the crisis.

Apart from dolphin deaths, the spill has threatened decades of work to conserve local sea birds and plant species in a nearby protected reserve.

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