Burnt-out container ship sinking off Sri Lanka

Burnt-out container ship sinking off Sri Lanka

Burnt-out container ship sinking off Sri Lanka

The fire aboard a Singapore-registered cargo ship off Colombo was finally extinguished after about two weeks following a concerted global operation, the Sri Lankan Navy said on Tuesday.

"The salvage company involved in the X-Press Pearl has indicated that the vessel is sinking at the current position", fisheries minister Kanchana Wijesekera said in a tweet on Wednesday. Our divers are yet to obtain clearance to check if there is any leak.

It was carrying 1,486 containers when the fire started, 81 of which held "dangerous goods", including 25 metric tons of nitric acid, according to X-Press Feeders.

The MV X-Press Pearl, carrying hundreds of tonnes of chemicals and plastics, burned for 13 days within sight of the island's coast before rescue workers finally managed to extinguish the blaze on Tuesday.

A huge amount of plastic debris has already inundated beaches, and authorities now fear an even greater disaster should the ship's 297 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 51 tonnes of marine fuel oil leak into the Indian Ocean.

The fire destroyed much of the almost 1,500 containers the vessel was carrying.

X-Press Feeders, operators of the container ship X-Press Pearl confirmed that salvors report no visible flames aboard the vessel, though smoke is still issuing from areas in the ship's aft.

Sri Lanka's Air Force captured dramatic aerial video of the burning ship. While dousing the fire appeared to be successful initially, the fire exploded in intensity last week and all 25 crew members and a salvage team from SMIT were evacuated.

The Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) chief Dharshani Lahandapura said they were still assessing the ecological damage, but believed it was the "worst ever in my lifetime".

The X-Press Pearl, was sailing from India's Gujarat to Colombo when a fire broke out on board on May 20, as it was nine nautical miles off the Sri Lankan coast.

Charitha Pattiaratchi, a professor of oceanography at the University of Western Australia, says the incident will have "extreme environmental impact".

Sri Lanka Navy personnel clear the beach from debris from damaged containers on the burning cargo vessel MV X-Press Pearl, 27 May 2021.

MEPA said the captain of the vessel had known about a nitric acid leak on May 11, long before the vessel entered Sri Lankan waters.

Police said three officers from the ship, two Russians and an Indian, had been questioned and their passports impounded.

At least 4,500 fishermen were affected at the fishing and tourist resort of Negombo, officials from the Roman Catholic church in the area said Saturday as they pleaded for financial aid.

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