The Singapore registered ship X-Press Pearl that has been blazing near the Colombo port is still burning for straight 7 days and Sri Lankan Authorities are racing against time to prevent an environmental catastrophe.
The ship has 25 tons of nitric acid cargo which is packaged in over 1480 containers, some of which have overturned into the sea and are washing up ashore. The fire has now spread to the quarterdeck and is affecting the ship’s bridge.
The Navy has alerted the public and the fishermen in the area about the hazardous nature of the cargo and has advised them to stay away from the burning site and not to touch any packages that wash up ashore.
8 containers had fallen off on Tuesday. One of them washed up in Negombo tourist beach which is 40 km away from Colombo. This shows the extent of the problem at hand and as the fire accelerates the fear of an oil spill along with a chemical spill is imminent.
Meanwhile, the owner of the vessel, X-Press Feeders, has flown in salvage experts and firefighters from Europe to resolve the issue. These experts have started working with local authorities to douse the fire which has accelerated due to the strong winds and the southwest monsoons.
A cyclone brewing in eastern India has led to a strong gust of winds which came in the way of dousing the fire. At present, a massive cloud of black smoke could be seen rising from the ship.
All the 25 crew members had been evacuated on Tuesday and placed under a quarantine facility in Colombo. 2 of them have suffered leg injuries and are being treated in a hospital in Colombo.
On Wednesday, the air force had dropped 425kg of fire retardant chemicals to put off the fire. The Marine Environment Protection Authority has been busy preparing containment measures in case a chemical spill or oil spill happens.
The MEPA’s Dharshani Lahandapura has revealed that they are using computer modelling to predict the oil spill which could reach the Negombo beach. The monsoon winds are likely to blow up the oil spill in that area and hence the MEPA has decided to move equipment there to deal with a spill.
Earlier in September, a similar incident happened when a fire broke out on a crude tanker on the East coast of Sri Lanka. At that time, the ship kept blazing for more than a week until it was doused by the Indian coast guard. Keeping that in mind, Sri Lanka is taking no chance this time and is doing everything possible to stop the fire.