Disasters & Accidents

Sri Lanka fears acid rain due to blazing X-Press Pearl ship

Colombo, May 28 (EFE).- Sri Lankan authorities were on Friday battling a possibility of toxic precipitation of acid rain due to the burning of the X-Press Pearl ship that has been on fire since last week and has sparked fears of extensive marine pollution.

The ship, carrying nitric acid and cosmetic chemicals, caught fire off Sri Lankan waters last Thursday.

The Singapore-registered container was heading from India to the Colombo harbor when it caught fire.

Officials said scientists were now conducting water analysis to see if nitrogen oxide secreted from the burning ship had changed the acidic or alkaline concentration of rainwater.

Turney Pradeep Kumara, who heads the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA), told EFE that there was a possibility of future acid rains, which is harmful to human health.

“But we cannt say for sure, because winds are blowing in the opposite direction from the island. We continue to observe these changes in rainwater and the damage caused to the marine environment,” he said.

Sri Lankan Navy rescued all 25 crew members of the ship who hail from Russia, the Philippines, China, and India.

A member has tested positive for Covid-19 and is currently under medical supervision.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tweeted that the authorities would do everything possible to safeguard the Sri Lankan coast from the toxic debris of the burning ship.

He urged relevant authorities to monitor a possible oil spill.

Hundreds of dead fish and plastic pellets washed ashore on the island, raising concerns of severe marine pollution.

The authorities have warned of possible health hazards and advised people not to collect any material washed ashore from the distressed ship.

Authorities on Thursday arrested ten persons for violating the travel restrictions imposed to control the Covid-19 spread as they had gone to collect debris from the ship.

A Dornier aircraft from the Indian Coast Guard, which took part in the firefighting mission with Sri Lanka, conducted aerial surveillance to know the extent of marine pollution, the Sri Lankan Navy said.

Strong monsoonal winds have fanned the fire, hampering the efforts to control the blaze.

The navy, the coast guard, and the MEPA continue to remove containers and other debris from the fire-stricken ship in coastal areas, the Sri Lankan Navy said.

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

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