Sri Lanka braces for oil spill from sinking cargo vessel

It has readied containment booms to tackle a possible leak

Sri Lankan authorities on Thursday said they were bracing for a possible oil spill, as a fire-damaged cargo vessel was sinking off the island’s main port in capital Colombo.

Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl, carrying chemicals and plastic, has been in news since a fire incident on May 20 and subsequent explosion aboard, following which tonnes of plastic pellet deposits were found deposited along the country’s beaches.

The country’s Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), which termed the incident one of Sri Lanka’s worst ecological disasters in history, has readied oil spill containment booms, to tackle a possible leak from the vessel that officials said carried 350 tonnes of oil in its fuel tanks.

“There is no oil leak from the ship yet, but arrangements are in place to deal with a possible spill. That is the worst-case scenario,” Navy spokesperson Indika de Silva said.

Meanwhile, several coastal villages reported dead fish and other marine organisms by the shore, images of which went viral on social media.

The ship’s crew was evacuated last week, while the fire was fully extinguished on Tuesday, by the Sri Lankan Navy, along with experts from a Dutch salvage company and the Indian Coast Guard, after a 13-day battle with the raging flames.

Sri Lanka police are investigating the incident.

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