The ship carrying tons of chemicals is sinking, say the government and navy, in one of the worst sea disasters on the island.
A cargo ship carrying tons of chemicals sinks off the west coast of Sri Lanka, according to the government and navy, in one of the worst maritime disasters in Sri Lanka.
Rescuers were trying to divert a towed fire truck into the deep sea when it sank from Sri Lanka’s main port, officials said on Wednesday.
The Singapore-based MV X-Press Pearl was carrying 1,486 containers, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid, as well as other chemicals and cosmetics, which were unloaded on May 15 in the port of Hazira, India.
The ship was anchored off the west coast of the island when the fire broke out on May 20, when the ship anchored about 9.5 nautical miles (18 km) northwest of Colombo, waiting to enter port.
Authorities have since been battling the blaze as flammable containers loaded with chemicals spilled from the deck, the navy said last month.
Water sank into the square neck of the MV X-Press Pearl on Wednesday, with firefighters extinguishing the blaze for 12 days.
A spokesman for the Sri Lankan navy, Captain Indica de Silva, told Al Jazeera that the rear of the ship had sunk and that they had stopped towing it.
“The ship is now resting on the seabed. There is no other tow! “We have stopped trying to get it out of Sri Lanka,” he said.
“It simply came to our notice then. We are monitoring this closely and have not detected any leaks so far. It would be disastrous if that happened, but we are taking all necessary precautions. “
The Navy believes the fire was caused by chemicals flying over a Singapore-flagged ship.
Sri Lankan police are investigating the fire, and on Tuesday a court in Colombo banned the captain, assistant engineers from leaving the country.
The 25-person crew of the vessel was evacuated last week after the explosion. These include citizens of the Philippines, China, India and Russia.
The fire destroyed most of the ship’s cargo, polluted the surrounding waters and a long stretch of the island nation’s famous beaches.
Tons of plastic hail have engulfed the island’s shoreline and rich fishing grounds, creating one of the biggest environmental crises in decades, experts say.
Sri Lankan Marine Environment Authority (MEPA) President Darshan Lahandapura called it a “man-made disaster.”
“This is a tragic incident for Sri Lanka. It has had a negative impact on the country in many ways. “What we are doing now is minimizing the negative impact,” he told Al Aziz.
Lahandapura said most chemicals are “highly reactive” and are emitted through vapors and gases. “Some even dissolved in the sea,” he said. “There were no signs of an oil spill.”
At the same time, the government banned fishing along the 80-kilometer stretch of coastline, affecting 5,600 fishing boats while hundreds of soldiers were deployed to clear the beach.
“The beaches themselves are a painful sight,” said Minze Fernandez of Al Azra Azira on Tuesday.
“The only thing that hurts some of these beaches while walking in this huge part is that the blanket is white.” “These are microplastic hailstones mixed with tens of kilometers of completely burned, charred debris and debris as far as the eye can see,” he said.
Aanya Wipulasena contributed to this report from Colombo, Sri Lanka