Sri Lanka | Fire extinguished after 13 days of fire on sinking ship

(Colombo) The fire aboard a thirteen-day sinking cargo ship off the coast of Sri Lanka, which caused a major environmental disaster, was extinguished on Tuesday thanks to an international operation, the country’s navy said.


Posted on 1is June 2021 at 12:41 pm

France Media Agency

Experts from the Danish sea rescue company SMIT boarded the MV X-Press Pearl and also reported a high water level in the engine room, Sri Lankan navy spokesman Indika de Silva told AFP.

Tons of microplastic granules from its cargo have littered Sri Lanka’s beaches, leading to a fishing ban and causing ecological disaster. Thousands of soldiers have been sent to start collecting these plastic balls which pollute the beaches.

PHOTO ERANGA JAYAWARDENA, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Navy spokesman said the stern of the 186-meter container ship sank about a meter.

He said firefighters’ water jets had been turned off to prevent further water build-up, but some areas of the ship were still too hot to conduct a full examination of the building, which caught fire on May 20.

Navy divers carried out examinations below the waterline to make sure there were no cracks in the hull of the ship, which also carries 278 tonnes of fuel oil and 50 tonnes of diesel.

The Sri Lankan Navy received reinforcements from the Indian Coast Guard and tugboats chartered by SMIT to fight the flames, which destroyed most of the ship’s approximately 1,500 containers.

The fire was reported on May 20, as the vessel was about to enter Colombo port. The crew first managed to contain it, before the strong winds accompanying the monsoon fanned the fire, forcing the crew to evacuate on May 25.

PHOTO LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The ship, registered in Singapore, was carrying 25 tons of nitric acid and other chemicals, as well as 28 containers of plastic raw materials, most of which fell overboard.

The head of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), Dharshani Lahandapura, said he believed it was the “worst accident ever in his lifetime” in the region from an ecological point of view. .

He added that the crew were apparently aware of a nitric acid leak on May 11, long before the ship entered Sri Lankan waters, en route to Malaysia and Singapore.

Sri Lanka opened a criminal investigation on Monday. Police spokesman Ajith Rohana said the captain and chief engineer, both of Russian nationality, had been questioned for 14 hours since Monday.

The ship was heading for Colombo from Gujarat, India. He had previously traveled to Qatar and Dubai, where the nitric acid containers had been loaded.

Sri Lankan authorities suspect that the acid leak started the blaze. A Sri Lankan court on Tuesday ordered the confiscation of the passports of the three main crew members pending a full investigation.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has asked Australia for help in assessing the damage to the environment.

 
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