Sri Lanka, Dealing with ‘Worst’ Marine Catastrophe, Investigates Cargo Ship Fireplace

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The authorities in Sri Lanka have opened a prison investigation into the crew of a cargo ship laden with poisonous chemical compounds that has been burning off the island nation’s coast for 12 days, spilling particles into the ocean and polluting the nation’s seashores.

A number of tons of plastic pellets that had been being transported on the ship have washed ashore, and Sri Lanka’s Marine Safety Authority described the spill as “in all probability the worst seaside air pollution in our historical past.” Safety personnel have been employed to scour the nation’s seashores for the pellets used within the manufacturing of plastic luggage and fishing has been discouraged for miles alongside the coast.

A spokesman for Sri Lanka’s Navy mentioned the hearth, which broke out aboard the ship, MV X-Press Pearl, on Might 20, had been contained, however on Tuesday thick, black smoke was nonetheless seen rising from the burned containers on the ship’s deck.

The spokesman, Captain Indika de Silva, mentioned the ship was carrying 1,486 containers, a lot of which contained so-called harmful items, together with nitric acid, caustic soda, sodium methoxide and methane.

The ship was loaded with 350 tons of oil, and a mix of heavy gas and marine gas. Captain de Silva mentioned it was “too early to say about an oil spill,” however warned that there was “nonetheless a risk.”

“This is among the worst marine disasters that has occurred in Sri Lanka,” mentioned Dr. Asha de Vos, a marine biologist. “Our solely saving grace is that there was no oil spill. If that occurs, that will probably be extremely tragic.”

X-Press Feeders, the corporate that operated the vessel, mentioned {that a} container onboard had been leaking nitric acid properly earlier than the ship entered the waters off Sri Lanka, a teardrop-shaped island close to India.

The ship’s crew requested it’s permitted to dump the leaking container at two earlier stops, in India and Qatar, however had been denied as a result of the ports lacked the “specialist amenities or experience” wanted to “cope with the leaking acid,” based on X-Press Feeders.

The police have questioned the ship’s crew and despatched contaminated water samples to labs for testing. Of the 25 crew members who had been rescued and brought to quarantine amenities, two required remedy for accidents sustained throughout the evacuation and one examined constructive for Covid-19, the ship’s operator mentioned.

Because the authorities search to find out the reason for the hearth, locals residing alongside the coast close to Colombo, the capital, have started a serious cleanup.

“I’ve by no means seen something like this earlier than,” mentioned Dinesh Wijayasinghe, 47, an worker at a resort within the coastal city of Negombo. “After I first noticed this, about three to 4 days in the past, the seaside was coated with these pellets. They seemed like fish eyes.”

Mr. Wijayasinghe mentioned Sri Lankan safety personnel have collected as many as 200 luggage price of plastic pellets day-after-day for the reason that hearth started.

“Nonetheless, extra retains washing ashore,” he mentioned. “We’re instructed to not go to this space. So we’re maintaining away.”

Dr. De Vos, the marine biologist, mentioned the quantity of plastic discovered on the island’s western and southern coasts was troubling

Plastic air pollution, he mentioned, is usually a hazard to people and animals, together with endangered species like turtles, which hatch their eggs on the seaside.

“The pellets can soak and take in the chemical compounds from the atmosphere,” he mentioned. “This is a matter as a result of once we eat entire fish, we may even be consuming these chemical compounds.”

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