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Mauritius deploys coastguard to rescue stranded Chinese ship

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The inspection of the trawler that ran aground near the Mauritian capital Port-Louis, with 130 tonnes of fuel oil on board, will start "shortly" to detect possible leaks, Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo said on Monday.

Seven months ago, Mauritius experienced one of the worst maritime pollution in its history with the grounding of the MV Wakashio, which spilled 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil in its turquoise waters and provoked the anger of the inhabitants.

On Sunday around 5.30 pm, the Lurong Yuan Yu, a trawler flying the Chinese flag, ran aground on a reef facing Pointe-aux-Sables (North-West), near Port-Louis. It contained no cargo but 130 tonnes of fuel oil and 5 tonnes of lubricants.

"There are traces of oil around Lurong Yuan Yu. Divers will soon inspect the ship to see if there are any cracks," Maudhoo said at a press conference on Monday.

He described the pumping of fuel oil as a "priority" and said that 300 metres of floating booms have been deployed around the ship, confirming the observations on the spot by an AFP correspondent.

The minister did not give more details on the circumstances of the incident but residents said they saw traces of oil arriving on the shore.

"The police are also on board to seize all the documents and an investigation has been opened," the minister added.

- Demonstrations -

The MV Wakashio, a Japanese bulk carrier, ran aground on 25 July 2020 on a coral reef near the Pointe d'Esny, on the south-east coast. It contained 3,800 tonnes of fuel oil and 200 tonnes of diesel, which quickly began to leak but was mostly pumped out.

The affair had aroused the wrath of the Mauritians, already outraged by the scandals of corruption and nepotism which enamel Mauritian politics, notably in the framework of the fight against Covid-19.

On 29 August, a demonstration had gathered between 50,000 and 75,000 people in Port Louis to denounce the management of the oil spill by the government of Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth. Such a gathering had not been seen since 1982.

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