Sri Lanka shipwreck debris threatens environmental catastrophe

Colombo, Jun 14 (EFE).- Sri Lankan authorities are bracing for severe environmental damage, the full extent of which is still not known, after a cargo ship loaded with chemicals caught fire and sank off the coast of the island nation.

Police arrested on Monday the ship’s captain, who is currently being questioned by the Sri Lankan Criminal Investigation Department, while officials continue to monitor the wreckage amid fears of a massive oil leakage from the vessel’s 278 tonnes of bunker oil and 50 tonnes of gas.

Sri Lanka Navy personnel have commenced cleanup operations of the country’s coastline, after the government opened a probe to determine the magnitude of the environmental disaster last week.

A huge amount of plastic granules and debris from the shipwreck of the Singaporean flagged craft washed ashore on beaches from Colombo to Negombo.

The cleanup team has recovered more than 1,000 metric tonnes of waste from over 200 kilometers of the country’s coasts, according to the nation’s marine protection authority.

They have found numerous carcasses of turtles, dolphins and sea birds, prompting concerns that marine life might be under threat due to the accident’s fallout.

The Singapore-registered container cargo vessel MV X-Press Pearl caught fire around 9.5 nautical miles from the Colombo harbour on 20 May.

Repeated efforts to extinguish the major fire failed. After burning for 12 days, the smouldering ship sank on 2 June, when its stern struck the shallow sea bed as it was towed towards deeper waters.

Sri Lanka Navy divers along with other related authorities have not detected any breaches in the ship’s fuel oil tanks so far.


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