Mauritius oil spill. Photo: Shared by Greenpeace Africa

Three crew members in a salvage operation following the devastating Mauritius Oil Spill disaster have died and a fourth is missing after an accident at sea. With a looming threat of a second oil spill in Mauritius, Greenpeace is calling for transparency.

Greenpeace said that on 31 August, around 19h30 Mauritius local time, a barge carrying oil from the stricken Japanese iron-ore vessel The Wakashio collided with a tug boat pulling it. It’s believed the ocean was rough. The tug boat involved in the Wakashio salvage operation sunk in the coral lagoon north east of the island, and it is reported that the sailors jumped overboard. Of the eight crew members, four have been rescued. Three sadly died and the search is ongoing for the fourth.

Mauritius oil spill. Photo: Shared by Greenpeace Africa

The oil in the barge was being transported to the Port-Louis harbour area, and there is now a threat of a second oil spill, Greenpeace said in a media statement.

Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa Senior Climate and Energy Campaign Manager, said: “Greenpeace is saddened by the tragic loss of the two crew members, and we extend our condolences to the families who have lost loved ones. We wish speedy recoveries to those who have been injured, and hope that the missing crew members will be found soon. One life lost is one too many.

“The oil spill from the stranded ship is not only threatening the livelihood of Mauritians and biodiversity, it is now claiming people’s lives. This incident is yet another reminder of how dangerous oil is. The Mauritius government should never again allow any oil transports in their waters.”

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Mauritius Oil Spill. Photo: Greenpeace Africa

On 24 August, Greenpeace and Dis Moi sent a joint letter to the government of Mauritius demanding a number of fully public independent investigations, as well as transparency and accountability to the public. The letter urged the government to protect Mauritian waters from transit ships to avoid a repeat of an oil spill in future.

Vijay Naraidoo, co-director of Dis Moi, said: “A second major oil spill would devastate this pristine environment. We received the last official statement on the oil pumped out of Wakashio on 11 August, but since then there has been no update. The details of the operation have not been disclosed. This lack of transparency is alarming. Authorities should share their plans with the public immediately and undertake the operation at the highest possible standard.”

On Saturday, large protests were held in response to the government’s mishandling of the catastrophe. Last week, concerns were raised further when video footage showed some of approximately 39 dolphins which washed up dead on the shores of Mauritius which conservationists say is linked to the oil spill, although the Mauritius fisheries minister denied the link.

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Photo: Shav (via Greenpeace Africa)

The oil spill disaster = which threatens Mauritius’ unique biodiversity – began on 25 July when the Japanese ship hit a coral reef. At least 1,000 tonnes of oil is believed to have spilled into the popular holiday island’s waters, according to the BBC.