Two tugboat crew members killed near Wakashio wreck site

Two tugboat crew members killed near Wakashio wreck site


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, said on Tuesday.

“This incident is going to add to the prevailing anger. We had the oil spill, then we had the deaths of the dolphins and now two people who have been killed,” the lawmaker said.

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.