Bad weather hindered efforts to contain an oil spill from a bulk carrier off the southeastern coast of Mauritius that experts say may cause huge damage to the country’s coastal waters and marine wildlife.

The National Coast Guard and Polyeco, an environment services company, are trying to contain the leakage from the Panama-flagged MV Wakashio, which ran aground two miles off the coast on July 25. The French island of Reunion is assisting the country to clean up the spill while other international and regional organizations have been asked to help.

The oil spill on the reef near Pointe d’Esny “is likely one of the most terrible ecological crises ever seen on the small island country,” Greenpeace Africa said in a statement Friday. By Aug. 5, residents already warned that the ship was sinking, the organization said.

The carrier was en route to Brazil from China and held 3,894 tons of low-sulfur fuel oil, 207 tons of diesel and 90 tons of lubricant oil, according to the Environment Ministry.

“Due to bad weather and constant pounding over the past few days, the starboard side bunker tanker has been breached and an amount of fuel oil has escaped into the sea,” said Nagashiki Shipping Co. Ltd, owner and manager of the vessel, in an emailed statement. “In view of poor sea conditions salvage efforts are currently on hold.”

A floating barrier has been deployed around the vessel to contain the oil, the shipping company said. The government on Thursday closed some of the country’s beaches.

“It’s the first time that Mauritius is so badly hit by an oil spill,” Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, an oceanographer, said by phone. “It may have caused irreversible environmental damage to the southeastern coast of Mauritius.”

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