Sri Lanka reports more than 200 animals killed after ship caught fire, sank

Colombo, Jun 30 (EFE).- Sri Lanka denounced Wednesday the deaths of more than 200 animals, including four whales and 20 dolphins, after a fire on a ship loaded with chemicals off the coast of the island nation that later sank.

The Attorney General’s office told a court in Colombo that at least 176 turtles have been added to the number of dead animals that have washed up on Sri Lankan beaches in recent weeks.

The fire on the Singapore-flagged X-PRESS PEARL, which was carrying some 1,500 containers loaded with nitric acid and other chemicals such as caustic soda, as well as polystyrene balls, started on May 20 and, after burning for days, sank in early June.

Authorities fear it is the worst marine disaster in the nation’s history.

The chairman of the Sri Lanka Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), Dharshani Lahandapura, told Efe that a mission was underway to obtain “scientific evidence” of the extent of the environmental damage.

“A 41-member expert panel is gathering data. The panel is yet to finalize the damage assessment report,” she said.

Sri Lanka will demand financial compensation from the owners of the X-PRESS PEARL although, Lahandapura said, “they will not be able to compensate for the actual damage caused” to the environment.

Sri Lankan Wildlife Minister C.B. Ratnayake told Efe that the Asian country has sought the help of foreign experts to determine the level of contamination caused by the chemicals and polystyrene balls.

In addition to the environmental damage, the event has affected a large number of families living in the coastal areas who subsisted on fishing.

In September last year, the MT New Diamond, which was carrying 270,000 metric tons of crude oil, also caught fire in Sri Lankan waters. EFE

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