Colombo, June 2 (EFE).- A cargo ship with chemicals on board that has been on fire for the last nearly two weeks off the Sri Lankan coast began to sink Wednesday, officials said, sparking fears over a catastrophic oil spill and extensive marine pollution.
The Sri Lankan Navy told the media that the X-Press Pearl vessel, carrying 1,500 containers of nitric acid and other chemicals, was sinking near the western coast.
Minister of State for Fisheries Kanchana Wijesekera wrote on Twitter that the “sinking vessel is been towed away to deep waters by the salvage company with the support of the navy and other stakeholders involved.”
The minister said the fisheries department had suspended vessels entering from the Negombo Lagoon and fishing from Panadura to Negombo with an immediate effect after the ship started sinking.
“Emergency preventing measures are taken to protect the lagoon and surrounding areas to contain the damage form any debris or in case of an oil leak. Vessels fishing in around the area and high seas are also informed of possible debris and to be vigilant.”
The Singapore-registered container was heading from India to the Colombo harbor when it caught fire off Sri Lankan waters last nearly two weeks ago.
The authorities have since tried to extinguish the flames.
But strong winds associated with the monsoon have complicated the operation.
The burning ship has caused the plastic waste spillage off the west coast.
Sri Lanka Navy launched a mass-scale beach cleanup after plastic pallets from the ship washed ashore.
It is the second ship that caught fire off Sri Lankan water in a span of few months.
In September, a large crude oil carrier MT New Diamond caught fire and suffered an engine room explosion that left one of its crew dead.
The Sri Lankan and Indian firefighting missions battled for over a week to control the fire.
The Colombo High Court later fined the owners of the crude oil tanker pay 442 million Sri Lankan rupees (more than $2.2) for the damage caused by the fire. EFE