Environmental disaster feared as ship sinks off Sri Lanka

  • Environmental disaster feared as ship sinks off Sri Lanka

Environmental disaster feared as ship sinks off Sri Lanka

A cargo ship that was on fire for weeks off the coast of Sri Lanka began to sink June 2, sparking fears of major ecological disaster.

Below, a navy officer patrols near a damaged cargo container spilled from the ship. Eighty-one of those were unsafe goods containers, including 25 tons of nitric acid.

Authorities suspect the nitric acid was the source of the fire.

Infrared footage over the weekend showed that the fire has mostly died out.

Salvage experts were attempting to tow a fire-stricken container ship that had been loaded with chemicals into the deep sea as the vessel started to sink off Sri Lanka's main port, officials said. The ship's stern is now touching bottom, the company said.

Sri Lankan navy soldiers carry a sack of polythene pellets that washed ashore from burning ship MV X-Press Pearl anchored off Colombo port at Kapungoda, out skirts of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, May 31, 2021. The vessel was carrying almost 350 tons of fuel oil, and salvage teams have prepared for the event of an oil spill.

Kanchana Wijesekera, Sri Lanka's Minister of Fisheries, said Wednesday that if there is a spill, booms and skimmers will be used around the vessel and at strategic locations, and spray will be used to disperse the oil slick.

"The President gave instructions to issue an order to tow the vessel into the deep seas based on the powers vested with the Chairman of the Marine Environment Protection Authority and based on technical facts as well as the advice of the Attorney General", a statement from his office said.

"The 25-member crew have completed their quarantine and we are able to question them today", a police spokesman said. It had previously visited Qatar and Dubai and was due to go to Malaysia and Singapore after calling at Colombo.

Sri Lanka's Air Force captured dramatic aerial video of the burning ship.

The head of Sri Lanka's Roman Catholic church, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, called for legal action against authorities for allowing the ship into local waters.

The Police Inspector-General has ordered the Criminal Investigation Department to investigate the fire as well as the huge environmental damage caused, an official said.

But he ruled out towing it away from Sri Lankan waters until the fire was completely put out and experts examined the vessel for any structural weaknesses.

Endless piles of the plastic pellets can already be seen on shore.

He said the nurdles "will persist in the marine environment forever as they are not biodegradable".

Below, smoke rises from the MV X-Press Pearl engulfed in flames off the port of Colombo on May 25.

The incident is also a crisis for area fishermen.