Large cracks have appeared in the hull of the MV Wakashio, a cargo ship which ran aground off of Mauritius last month.
Prime minister, Pravind Jugnauth, has warned the vessel, which is carrying around 4,000 tonnes of fuel oil, could break in two and cause untold ecological damage.
The ship ran aground at Pointe d’Esny, a known sanctuary for rare wildlife in the Indian Ocean, on July 25th.
The area also contains wetlands designated as a site of international importance by the Ramsar convention.
Around 500 litres of oil have been safely pumped from the ship, Jugnauth said, but the work continues.
Fuel has been transferred to shore by helicopter and to another ship owned by Japanese firm Nagashiki Shipping.
Booms have been deployed to limit movement of the oil slick further towards the eastern coast as the weather remains windy and the seas rough.
Mauritius is home to world-renowned coral reefs, and tourism is a crucial part of its economy.
Since the weekend, volunteers have been collecting straw from fields and filling sacks to make barriers against the oil.
Authorities have been providing volunteers with support and protective equipment.
Mitsui OSK Lines, the operator of the ship, said on Sunday it had tried to place its own containment booms around the vessel but had not been successful owing to rough seas.
The prime minister added that the government had taken note of apologies made to Mauritius by owners of the bulk carrier Wakashio, in a public statement yesterday.
Jugnauth, however, stressed that they remain accountable for this unprecedented ecological disaster.
The Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority is updating the hospitality industry with information here.
Image: ABACA/ABACA/PA Images