Mauritius

  1. Mauritius PM hits out at UK over Chagos Islands control

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth

    Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth has hit out at the UK for refusing to return control of Chagos Islands to the island nation.

    Mr Jugnauth described the UK and the US as "hypocrites" and “champions of double talk”.

    The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague last year gave an advisory opinion ordering the UK to hand over the islands to Mauritius.

    Britain continues to insist that the ICJ ruling is wrong.

    One of the islands, Diego Garcia, is home to a US military airbase.

    Prime Minister Jugnauth on Sunday told a group mainly of Chagossians and their descendants that it was a disgrace for the two powers not to respect human rights.

    "Despite the advisory opinion, the English still do not respect the judgement in complicity with the Americans," he said.

    “They teach other countries to respect human rights but they are champions of double talk. Our fight is just. The majority of countries support us," he added.

    The prime minister urged Chagossians not to be divided in the cause of reclaiming the islands.

    He launched a workshop on the preservation of the Chagossian traditional drum, sega.

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  2. Nearly a dozen southern African MPs died from Covid-19

    Jose Tembe

    BBC News, Maputo

    Nearly a dozen MPs have died from Covid-19 in southern Africa, the head of the Southern African Development Community's parliamentary forum, Esperanca Bias, has said.

    The MPs were from Angola, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius and Zimbabwe, Ms Bias added.

    She offered her condolences to their families as she ended a session of the parliamentary forum in Mozambique's capital, Maputo.

  3. Mauritius oil spill: Captain accused of drinking

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    Captain Nadeshwar entering court
    Image caption: Capt Nadeshwar, left, promised he would not leave Mauritius

    Voice recordings from the ship that spilled hundreds of tonnes of oil off the coast of Mauritius show that the captain had been drinking alcohol, an expert has said in a report.

    Information captured by the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR), which took an audio recording in the MV Wakashio, was revealed in a court in Port Louis on Tuesday.

    The MV Wakashio ran aground on a coral reef in July while carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil, causing an ecological emergency.

    Capt Sunil Kumar Nandeshwar, a 58-year-old Indian man, was charged with endangering safe navigation. He has not commented on the case.

    The report written by a VDR expert said recordings confirmed suspicions of a birthday party little more than an hour before the ship ran aground and that the captain had consumed alcohol.

    Assistant Superintendent of Police Roshan Kokil said in a press conference on Wednesday that Capt Nandeshwar was also aware that the depth under the ship was decreasing considerably.

    He added that that the ship's voice recorder did not record any call with the Mauritius National Coast Guard.

    He gave several hypotheses for the boat's failure to contact the coast guard, which included the marine radio being off, the ship's frequency not being on the same frequency as the coast guard, a disconnection of the antenna or a low volume.

    Capt Nandeshwar has requested bail, insisting that he has no intention of leaving Mauritius.

    “I have a reputation to maintain and I must clear my honour by staying here until the investigation is completed," he told the Intermediate Court in Port Louis on Tuesday.

    However, police objected.

    “The suspect may ask the three crew members, in this case the second officer, the chief engineer and the cook, to change their version, if he is free," the police told the magistrate.

    “The suspect, as a person familiar with marine routes and a very influential captain, may easily be tempted to leave the Mauritian territory to escape a severe sentence from the court, if he is convicted.”

    Magistrate Neeshal Kumar Jugnauth will rule on the bail motion on 20 October.

  4. Mauritius to reopen borders under strict measures

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    Pereybere beach in Mauritius
    Image caption: Pereybere beach is a popular draw for locals and tourists

    Mauritius will reopen its borders from 1 October under strict Covid-19 safety measures.

    Those arriving will be required to quarantine for 14 days at their cost - which is estimated to be about $1,300 (£1,000) per person.

    Tourism experts have faulted the quarantine cost as too high.

    Tourists can choose to spend the fortnight in either three-star or five -star hotels.

    Quarantine costs for Mauritians returning from medical treatment abroad will be covered by the government, said Zouberr Joomaye, an adviser at the Prime Minister's office.

    Airline bookings and hotel room reservations will only be made online.

    The government said priority will be given to returning Mauritian nationals, licensed residents, those employed in Mauritius and tourists.

    No local cases of Covid-19 have been detected for more than 150 days now, but a few imported cases have been registered.

    Mauritius has so far recorded 10 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic.

    The country relies heavily on revenues from tourism and its economy has been severely hit by the pandemic.

  5. Mauritians 'left in the dark' over oil spill

    Former Mauritius president and biodiversity scientist, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, says Mauritians are getting most of their information on the recent oil spill from the media rather than the government.

    A Japanese-owned vessel, the Wakashio, ran aground on a coral reef off the coast of Mauritius on 25 July while carrying 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil.

    It caused an unprecedented ecological crisis there.

    Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth commissioned a formal investigation and promised a full and transparent inquiry, but his government has been accused of not being transparent in the handling of the clean-up operation.

    "Over 45 days since the Wakashio crashed on our reef... we still don't know how much oil has landed in our waters, we still don't know to what extent they've started the clean up procedure, what reagents they are using," Dr Fakim told the BBC's Newsday programme.

    "We are completely in the dark. We get information from the newspapers in bits and pieces but there has not been something coherent."

    Video content

    Video caption: Former president demands answers over how much oil was spilt when the Wakashio ran aground
  6. Mauritius population left 'in the dark' over oil spill

    Video content

    Video caption: Former president demands answers over how much oil was spilt when the Wakashio ran aground

    "We still don't know how much oil has landed in our waters, we still don't know to what extent they've started the clean up procedure... we are completely in the dark"

  7. Zoo staff help rare reptiles after Mauritius oil spill

    BBC Radio Jersey

    Rescued gecko
    Image caption: A lesser night gecko waits to be weighed at Jersey Zoo

    Conservationists from Jersey have helped to rescue three species of rare reptiles after an oil spill near Mauritius.

    The reptiles have now arrived at Jersey Zoo, where they will be looked after and will take part in a breeding programme, before being released back into the wild.

    The oil spill happened in July after a Japanese bulk carrier crashed into a coral reef south of the island.

    Together with wildlife trusts in Mauritius, conservationists from Durrell made an emergency rescue of lesser night geckos, Bojer’s skinks, and Bouton’s skinks - which are at risk of dying out in the wild.

    Dr Nik Cole examines a Bojer's skink on Ilot Vacoas, while Matt Goetz inspects a number of Bouton's skinks back at Jersey Zoo
    Image caption: Dr Nik Cole examines a Bojer's skink on Ilot Vacoas, while Matt Goetz inspects a number of Bouton's skinks back at Jersey Zoo
  8. Mauritius bans fish sales from polluted lagoon

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    A man looks at the carcass of a dolphin that died and was washed up on shore at the Grand Sable, Mauritius
    Image caption: Carcasses of 39 dolphins washed up on shore in Mauritius after the oil spill

    Mauritius' fisheries ministry has banned the sale and consumption of fish and seafood caught in a south-eastern lagoon after samples from the area returned positive tests for traces of hydrocarbons.

    About 1,000 tonnes of oil spilled into a sanctuary for rare wildlife after the Japanese-owned ship MV Wakashio struck a coral reef on 25 July.

    The National Coast Guard and the Fisheries Protection Services are working together to ensure round-the-clock surveillance and make sure that no fishing takes place in the affected area, the ministry said.

    A second rally to protest at the authorities' handling of the massive oil spill is scheduled for 12 September in Mahebourg.

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  9. Son of missing Mauritius boat captain proud of dad

    Yasine Mohabuth

    Port Louis, Mauritius

    Irfan Mizraim Bheenick
    Image caption: Captain Moswadeck Bheenick is seen with his family in this file photo

    The son of a boat captain missing since Monday evening after his vessel capsized while taking part in clean-up operations in Mauritius following July's huge oil spill says he is proud of his dad.

    Three sailors died and four were rescued, while search operations are continuing for Captain Moswadeck Bheenick - the only crew member still missing.

    Their tugboat had been towing an unmanned barge back from the spill site in rough seas when the collision between them happened.

    The Japanese-owned MV Wakashio struck a coral reef on 25 July, and spilled about 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil into the coast.

    “My strong, sturdy dad knows his stuff there. He is not a reckless person. No matter what happened to him, I am proud he has done his duty as the captain to leave the boat as the last person," 20-year-old Irfan Mizraim Bheenick told the BBC.

    “My father wanted to help Mauritius, it is unfair what happened and there are many things which are fishy," he added.

    Reports say that the captain and other sailors had judged it inappropriate to tow the barge during the night to the capital Port-Louis because waves as high as six metres had been observed.

    “My dad’s colleagues also called me saying they were pressured to leave," Irfan said.

    The authorities have not yet commented on the allegation.

    Irfan is studying to be a pilot in South Africa, and regrets not being able to return to Mauritius because of his exams and Covid-19 restrictions.

    “I wanted to come back home but with borders closed and Covid-19, I’m stranded in South Africa leaving my mum and sister alone in Mauritius.”

    “I would like to make my father's dream come true even more today, to become a pilot,” he added.

    Search and rescue helicopter flies over the site of the collision off Mauritius on 31 August 2020
    Image caption: Search and rescue teams, along with fishermen, have been combing the area for the missing captain

    Fishermen said they found fuel oil residues in the lagoon on Thursday morning, three days after the tugboat sank.

    It was carrying 25 tonnes of diesel for its own use, and had lubricating oil in the engine.

    The ministry of environment said "no impact on the shoreline, lagoon and the mangrove areas" has been noticed since the tugboat capsized.

    The area contains wetlands designated as a site of international importance by the Ramsar convention on wetlands.

    Many Mauritians believe the government could have done more to prevent the spill. There is also criticism over the decision to deliberately sink part of the ship after it split in two.

  10. Video content

    Video caption: Mauritius oil spill: 'We want to protect our island'

    Young locals are helping to prevent environmental damage to their island after a tanker ran aground.

  11. More dead dolphins found on Mauritius coast

    A dolphin carcass

    Twelve more dead dolphins have been found on the coast of Mauritius, bringing the number found in the last few days to 39, the authorities say.

    Environmental campaigners have said that the deaths were either caused by the oil spill from a Japanese-owned ship or by authorities sinking part of the vessel.

    At a press conference on Friday, Fisheries Minister Sudheer Maudhoo said that there were some injuries on the bodies of the marine mammals but there was no evidence of oil found in their stomachs, reports the BBC's Yasine Mohabuth.

    Autopsies are continuing and samples have been sent to a laboratory for further testing.

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  12. Mauritius oil spill volunteers decry restricted access

    Catherine Byaruhanga

    BBC News, Kampala

    A volunteers shows hand gloves covered in oil during clean up
    Image caption: The volunteers have abandoned the clean up

    Volunteers in Mauritius say the government is putting in place restrictions blocking them from accessing shorelines where they have been helping clean up a recent oil spill.

    Authorities have said the areas need to be restricted for public health reasons.

    But there’s concern the government is trying to silence criticism for its handling of the environmental crisis.

    Volunteers have been the backbone of the clean-up effort. They have used spades, buckets and made anti-pollution booms from sugarcane stalks and hair to absorb the oil.

    Much of that work has stopped according to a video filmed by a volunteer Tushaar Daiboo at Bois des Amourettes showing abandoned drums full of the collected fuel.

    Mr Tushaar and others say the government is restricting their access to affected areas.

    Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared an environmental state of emergency after the oil spill began. This included restrictions on movements to the areas affected for health reasons as the waste is toxic.

    Those who violate these rules could face a $2,500 (£1,800) fine and up to two years in prison.

    Mauritians believe that the government was slow to react as the shipwreck was left near the shoreline for two weeks before it started leaking its fuel.

    Prime Minister Jugnauth told the BBC they were following expert advice.

    Some environmentalists are worried that politics could overshadow the immediate crisis. Thousands of species are at risk as the oil spill happened near two protected marine ecosystems and the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve, which is a wetland of international importance.

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