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Container ship sinking near Sri Lanka.  There is a risk of a major environmental disaster

Container ship sinking near Sri Lanka. There is a risk of a major environmental disaster

The fire was extinguished on Tuesday, but the ship began to sink. A tugboat is trying to pull it away from shore, but it is not clear if it will succeed. Some fuel, plastic pellets and other chemicals have already leaked from the ship.

The ship was towed by Dutch ship rescue company SMIT Salvage. “The ship will be towed as far from shore as possible before sinking,” said Indonesian navy spokeswoman Indika de Silva.

Fisheries Minister Kanchan Wijesker confirmed that the boat had been towed away from shore, but said it was sinking at its current location and that other boats should not enter Lake Negombo: “We have taken emergency measures to protect the lake and its surroundings and prevent damage from this. Or in the event of fuel leakage.”

Towing the sunken MV X-Press Pearl burning ship.

Foto: Sri Lanka Air Force Media, Reuters

Already on Tuesday, the operator of the X-Press Feeders warned that the inspection team, which boarded the plane after extinguishing the fire, found that the engine room was flooded.

“There are now concerns about the amount of water in the ship’s hull and its impact on its stability,” the operator added on Wednesday. A previous attempt to pull the wreck failed due to the large waves. The Sri Lanka Environmental Protection Agency (MOPA) said water entered the boat through the stern. Fishing has already been banned in the area, affecting the crews of 5,600 fishing boats.

He fears that the fuel will leak from the ship and contaminate the 30 km of coastline with beautiful beaches between Negombo and Dikweet. Oil slick has already been spotted on Negombo beaches, polluting some of them. Millions of pellets that fell from the ship covered the 80 km of the western coast of Sri Lanka. They are especially dangerous for animals, which may confuse them with food.

The coast of Sri Lanka was contaminated with waste from the burning ship MV X-Press Pearl.

Photo: Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters

There were 1,486 containers on board, of which 85 contained hazardous substances, including nitric acid. It is not yet known what other materials the ship was carrying.

The fire broke out after the explosion on May 20. This ship, sailing to Colombo, was located 16 kilometers off the coast of Sri Lanka. The crew of 25, made up of Filipinos, Chinese, Indians and Russians, was evacuated after the explosion.

Sri Lankan sailors clean up environmental damage after the MV X-Press Pearl fire.

Photo: Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters

The explosion was likely caused by a nitric acid leak, which the crew learned about. X-Press Feeder explained that acid had leaked from one container during previous stops at Qatar’s Hamad Port and India’s island port.

Pollution of the coasts of Sri Lanka.

Photo: Dinuka Liyanawatte, Reuters