Wakashio: Expat Sunniva talks to us about her book

Expat interviews
Published on 2021-01-18 at 11:27 by Estelle Bastien
Sunniva is a Norwegian expat who has been living in Mauritius for nine years now and like most Mauritians and residents, she was devastated when the MV Wakashio ran aground on the 25th of July 2020. The mum of two, therefore, decided to write a book recalling the chronology of the shipwreck. The pictures in “Wakashio- Oil Spill in Paradise” were also painted by Sunniva's friend.

Tell us a little about yourself, Sunniva.

I am from Norway, but I have been living in Mauritius for almost 9 years. I am married to a Mauritian and we have two little boys. I have a brand called Sunniva, and I sell jewelry and accessories homemade here in Mauritius. 

Is this your first book?

Yes and it is a completely new adventure to me.

Why was it important for you to put this particular story on paper, especially focusing on explaining it to the younger generation? 

I thought it would be a good idea to keep a chronology of the various events that followed the grounding. I think that kids have a lot of questions and it's nice to be able to explain to them what happened and why it happened, and a book with illustrations is the best way to do so. 

You live at Pointe d'Esny. How would you describe what you felt when you learnt about the shipwreck? 

I do. I was shocked and very sad. First of all knowing that this massive ship had crashed into our beautiful and healthy reef. Then when we learned that the ship was carrying 4000 tons of crude oil and I was extremely worried what a leak could do to the area. 

Days were passing, and from what I could see not much was done to remove the oil from the ship. I was worried a leak would happen, and when it happened it felt like a nightmare come true. 

Tell us more about your book.

The book contains a factual chronology of events that followed the grounding of Wakashio. There are illustrations on all pages, the illustrations are aquarels by a local artist and also a friend of mine. The text is both in English and French. 

How did you decide on writing a book?

Living in Pointe d'Esny, we were right in the middle of the whole Wakashio saga. 

We followed the evolution of the salvage operation as we are directly impacted, like everyone that lives around here.

With so much attention on the Wakashio, and the series of unfortunate events that have happened since the wreckage. I thought to myself: surely people will want to have a book that summarises it all. It's not everyday that a 300 metre ship crashes on our reef and starts leaking oil! 

What is the core message behind the book? 

The Mauritian population was deeply moved by this catastrophe and we do not intend to forget what happened and how it happened. We expect a full investigation and we want to get to the bottom of this tragedy and know how this could happen in modern day Mauritius. 

Did you also participate in the clean-up?

My husband was heavily involved right from the get go spending long days at sea. My duty was to look after our two young sons. But I did manage to spend some time helping at the waterfront in Mahebourg, and also at the main beach of Pointe d'Esny. It really felt like a war zone; everyone on alert trying to help in any possible way. 

How do you view the citizen solidarity that ensued? 

It was amazing to see how everyone got together to help. People wouldn't hesitate to jump into the oil if needed and everyone coordinated very well together to make things happen.  

According to you, what should be done in the future to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again?

In the first place that boat should never have landed where it did. It should have been picked up by our radars. So I think the priority is to have better qualified/trained coastguards that are able to recognise a threat coming our way, and also act to prevent it.

Share your expat experience!

Contact us to be featured in the Interviews section.