Sri Lanka: Chemical cargo ship sank in fire, disaster is worrying | Environmental News

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The government and navy stated that ships carrying several tons of chemicals are sinking, which is one of the worst marine disasters in Sri Lanka’s history.

The government and navy said that a cargo ship carrying several tons of chemicals is sinking on the west coast of Sri Lanka. This is one of the worst marine disasters in Sri Lanka’s history.

Officials said on Wednesday that when the ship started sinking in Sri Lanka’s main port, salvage experts were trying to tow the chemical-laden container ship into the deep sea.

The Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl carrying 1,486 containers, including 25 tons of nitric acid, as well as other chemicals and cosmetics, was loaded on May 15 at Hazira Port, India.

In the waters near the port of Colombo, the fire on the MV X-Press Pearl ship raised thick smoke [Sri Lanka Air Force Media/Handout via Reuters]

When the fire broke out on May 20, the ship was moored on the west coast of the island. At that time, the ship was moored about 9.5 nautical miles (18 kilometers) northwest of Colombo, waiting to enter the port.

The Navy said last month that since then, the authorities have been fighting the blaze because the burning vessel filled with chemicals fell off the ship’s deck.

On Wednesday, water flooded the tail deck of the MV X-Press Pearl, the day after firefighters extinguished a 12-day fire.

The spokesman of the Sri Lanka Navy, Captain Indica de Silva, told Al Jazeera that the rear of the ship had sunk and they had stopped towing.

“The ship is now resting at the bottom of the seabed. There is no more towing. We have stopped trying to tow it out of Sri Lankan waters,” he said.

“Now we are concerned about any oil spills. We are monitoring this closely and we have not found any leaks so far. If this happens it will be devastating, but we are taking all precautions.”

In the waters near the port of Colombo, the fire on the MV X-Press Pearl ship raised thick smoke [Sri Lanka Air Force Media/Handout via Reuters]

The Navy believes that the fire was caused by chemicals carried on ships flying the Singapore flag.

The Sri Lankan police are investigating the fire, and a court in Colombo imposed a travel ban on the captain, engineer and assistant engineer on Tuesday to not leave the country.

After the explosion last week, the ship’s 25 crew members were evacuated. They include nationals of the Philippines, China, India and Russia.

The fire destroyed most of the cargo on the ship, polluting the surrounding waters and the island nation’s large beaches.

A member of the Sri Lankan Navy cleaned up debris washed up on the beach from a vessel on fire near the port of Colombo on a beach in Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka [Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters]

Experts say tons of plastic particles have flooded the island’s coastline and rich fishing grounds, causing one of the biggest environmental crises in decades.

“The salvage company involved in X-Press Pearl stated that the ship is sinking at its current location,” Fisheries Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said in a tweet.

The government has banned fishing along 80 kilometers of coastline, affecting 5,600 fishing boats, and has deployed hundreds of soldiers to clean the beaches.

Al Jazeera’s Minel Fernandez said on Tuesday that “the beach itself is a regrettable sight”.

“On this large stretch of beaches that have been affected, walking along some of them, all you see is a piece of white and black blankets-they are microplastic particles mixed with a lot of burning and charred debris and debris materials. It’s tens of kilometers long. The range that the eyes can see,” she said.

Aanya Wipulasena contributed to this report, from Colombo, Sri Lanka



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