The UN representative in Sri Lanka said that the sinking of the Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl that had caught fire while transporting potentially harmful chemicals off Colombo caused tremendous “damage to the planet” by releasing several hazardous substances into our ecosystem.
On Thursday, the cargo ship sank a month after it had caught fire, raising issues regarding a severe ecological disaster. The UN has said that it has been seeking international efforts to help Sri Lanka in assessing the damage caused, applying recovery efforts, and preventing such a disaster in the future.
Hanaa Singer-Hamdy, the UN Resident Coordinator, said that this type of environmental emergency threatens the lives and livelihoods of the population, especially in the coastal regions.
The UN team comprising chemical and oil spill experts – recommended by the European Union (EU) – has already been sent to Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka has, in the meanwhile, submitted an interim claim worth US$40 million to the vessel owner, X-Press Feeders, to cover part of the cost incurred to fight the fire, which broke out when the cargo ship was anchored about 18km or 9.5 nautical miles northwest of Colombo, waiting to dock at the port.
The navy believes that the blaze had been caused by the chemical cargo on board, which included 25 tons of nitric acid along with other harmful chemicals, most of which had been destroyed by the fire.
Debris, including tons of plastic pellets and burned fibreglass, have contaminated the country’s pristine beaches. A ship manifest seen by the Associated Press said that there had been almost 1,500 containers, with 81 of those goods described to be “dangerous” on board.
The most pressing concern has been approximately 300 tons of bunker oil that had been utilized as fuel for the vessel. But officials have said that it may have possibly burned off in the fire.
Sri Lankan authorities and X-Press Feeders have said that so far, no sign of oil spill has been detected.