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Sri Lanka: Oil Spill Emergency, Burnt Cargo Ship Sinks

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A cargo ship that caught fire 13 days ago off the coast of Sri Lanka is now sinking. Thus, unleashing one of the worst environmental disaster.

The fuel tanks of the Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl contained hundreds of tonnes of oil. And if the ship sinks, it might leak into the sea causing severe damage to the marine life.

The Sri Lankan and the Indian Navies had been working together over the past few days, trying to put out the fire and to prevent the ship from sinking.

But all their efforts went in vain as the rough seas and monsoonal winds hindered the operation. This happened just outside the port of Colombo.

“The ship is sinking. Salvers are trying to tow the ship to deep sea before it sinks to minimise the marine pollution but the rear area of the ship has drifted,” said the Sri Lanka Navy spokesman Captain Indika Silva.

According to environmentalist Dr Ajantha Perera, the sinking ship posed “the worst environmental scenario”.

“With all the dangerous goods, the nitric acid and all these other things, and the oil in the ship, if it’s sinking it will basically destroy the whole bottom of the sea,” she said.

Ship

However, the divers should have been sent to examine the ship before it was towed out of the sea.

“The environmental issues will remain in our waters now,” she added.

For many days the coastal region near the city of Negombo was seeing oil and debris pollution. This region consists of the country’s most pristine beaches.

On the other hand, the fishery ministry said emergency measures will be taken to protect the Negombo lagoon and in other surrounding areas. But for now, all the fishing activities from Panadura to Negombo had been suspended.

Joshua Anthony, head of the regional fishing union, warned that the sinking could be “a death blow” for the industry.

“We can’t go to the sea which means we can’t make a living,” he said.

Moreover, many officials in Sri Lanka think the possible cause of the fire was the nitric acid leak. This problem was faced by the crew on 11 May.

The stricken container ship was carrying 25 tonnes of the highly corrosive acid, used for the manufacturing of fertilizers and explosives.

Later the company that owns the vessel confirmed that the crew was aware of the leak. But were denied permission by both Qatar and India to leave the ship there before everything happened.

The Sri Lankan’s were anguished as the country allowed the vessel to enter its waters even if it was rejected by two other nations.

Sri Lanka police on Tuesday said they questioned the captain and the engineer of the ship for more than 14 hours.

 

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