An oil-laden cargo ship sinks off the Sri Lankan coast, triggering worries of a calamity for the environment.
The X-Press Pearl from Singapore was on fire for about two weeks before the blaze was put out this week.
Hundreds of tones could flow into the water if it sinks, destroying marine life in the vicinity.
In the last few days, the Sri Lankan and Indian Marines worked collaboratively to put the fire out and prevent the ship from collapsing and sinking.
But harsh seas and mountain winds hindered the operation just outside Colombo harbor.
“The ship is sinking. Salvers are trying to tow the ship to the deep sea before it sinks to minimize the marine pollution, but the rear area of the ship has drifted, “Captain Indika Silva, the Sri Lankan Navy spokeswoman, told the BBC.
Dr Ajantha Perera told the BBC that the sinking marked “the worst case for the environment.”
“This will practically destroy the entire bottom of the sea with all the deadly products, nitric acid and other things, and oil in the ship, if it sinks,” she stated.
Dr. Perera said divers should have been sent down to assess the ship before it was towed into the sea.
“Environmental problems will now persist in our oceans,” she continued.
For days, oil and waste contamination has been visible along the shore near the town of Negombo, home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
In the meantime, the Fisheries Department said emergency procedures were in place to preserve the Negombo Lagoon and nearby areas.
Joshua Anthony, leader of the regional fisheries union, alerted the industry to the possibility of sinking as “a death blow.”
“We can’t get to the sea, so we can’t make a living,” he remarked.
Officials in Sri Lanka think that the incident was caused by a leak of nitric acid that the crew have known since 11 May. 25 tons of highly corrosive acid were transported by the ship which can be utilized in fertilizer and explosive production.
X-Press Shipping, the Singapore-based company owning the ship, verified to the crew that they were aware of the leak, but that both Qatar and India denied them permission to evacuate the ship before the fire broke out.
The fact that Sri Lanka permitted the ship to enter its waters after two other nations rejected it led to tremendous public resentment.
Officials filed a lawsuit against the ship’s captain, who was rescued last week along with other crew members.
Sri Lankan authorities said they interrogated the captain and the ship’s engineer for over 14 hours on Tuesday.
A court issued an order to prevent the captain, the chief engineer, and the extra engineer from leaving the country.
The Singapore-flagged container vessel, anchored off the port of Colombo, originally reported a fire in one of its containers because of a chemical leak.
On 15 May, the vessel, 186m long (610ft), left the Indian port of Hazira with 1,486 containers. The shipment comprised a number of different chemicals and cosmetics, as well as nitric acid.
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