Sri Lankan officials are already preparing for a devastating oil spill after a ship carrying toxic chemicals sank on Wednesday after almost two weeks ablaze off the west coast.
The fire-ravaged vessel had 1,486 containers, 25 tons of nitric acid, and other chemicals on board. X-Press Feeders, the company that owns and operates the cargo ship, confirmed that efforts to move it to the deeper sea away from the coastline were unsuccessful.
As the fire extinguishing process was being carried out, harmful chemical-laden flaming containers had possibly fallen from the deck. This may have led to spilling cargo into the sea. The Singapore-flagged ship, MV X-Press Pearl, has covered the coastline in numerous plastic pellets. It also stands the risk of spilling oil into the country’s flourishing fishing waters.
Authorities are on standby, in case oil begins to spill from the half-submerged MV X-Press Pearl, which would have a catastrophic impact on Sri Lanka’s fishing industry and marine life. They have informed that the stern of the cargo ship has sunk. Its front section, which remained above sea level, was also slowly settling down.
The navy had been incapable of pumping the oil from the ship’s tanks due to adverse weather conditions. Capt Indika de Silva, a navy spokesperson from Sri Lanka, emphasized that the navy was prepared to prevent the oil from going elsewhere, to minimize extensive environmental damage.
The massive impact of such an ecological disaster is being felt in the country where microplastics, hazardous wastes, and burned debris have started washing up along the country’s once-pristine shores.
The Sri Lankan government prohibited fishing about 50 miles off the country’s coast. Authorities have deployed several hundreds of soldiers to clean the beaches. Residents have been barred from touching the debris contaminated with potentially harmful chemicals.
A special police force is conducting a criminal investigation to unearth the cause of the fire. Officials believe that the crew may have been aware of a chemical leak days before they had informed the harbour authorities.
When it caught fire, X-Press Pearl was carrying over 300 tonnes of ship fuel. It is still unclear if the wild flames that gutted the ship had consumed all the bunker oil.