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Mauritius oil cleanup to be completed by January: Japanese ship owner

This undated supplied photo shows oil containment booms along the coast of Mauritius following a massive oil spill. (Photo courtesy of the Mauritius government/Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Cleanup efforts to remove the oil spilled by a Japanese freighter that ran aground off Mauritius earlier this year will be mostly completed by January, the ship's owner said Thursday.

    The Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Wakashio, owned by Nagashiki Shipping Co., ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius on July 25. More than 1,000 tons of oil began leaking from the vessel into the pristine environment on Aug. 6.

    Local police later that month arrested the captain, an Indian national, together with the first officer, a Sri Lankan, on suspicion of negligence in operating the vessel.

    Despite not being legally responsible for the damage caused by the spill, the ship's operator Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. has pledged about 1 billion yen ($9.6 million) in aid to Mauritius.

    It will establish a fund as early as next April to cover the costs of recovering coral reefs as well as protecting mangroves and seabirds in and around the Indian Ocean island nation.

    The Japanese government has sent disaster relief teams to help with the removal of the oil and assess the environmental damage.

    Cleanup efforts have been hampered by difficulties in removing oil from coral reefs and mangrove trees, with environmental groups expressing concern about the effects of the spill on wildlife in the area.

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