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Sri Lanka, Going through ‘Worst’ Marine Catastrophe, Investigates Cargo Ship Hearth

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The authorities in Sri Lanka have opened a prison investigation into the crew of a cargo ship laden with poisonous chemical substances that has been burning off the island nation’s coast for 12 days, spilling particles into the ocean and polluting the nation’s seashores.

A number of tons of plastic pellets that had been being transported on the ship have washed ashore, and Sri Lanka’s Marine Safety Authority described the spill as “most likely the worst seashore air pollution in our historical past.” Safety personnel have been employed to scour the nation’s seashores for the pellets used within the manufacturing of plastic baggage and fishing has been discouraged for miles alongside the coast.

A spokesman for Sri Lanka’s Navy stated the fireplace, which broke out aboard the ship, MV X-Press Pearl, on Might 20, had been contained, however on Tuesday thick, black smoke was nonetheless seen rising from the burned containers on the ship’s deck.

The spokesman, Captain Indika de Silva, stated the ship was carrying 1,486 containers, a lot of which contained so-called harmful items, together with nitric acid, caustic soda, sodium methoxide and methane.

The ship was loaded with 350 tons of oil, and a mix of heavy gas and marine gas. Captain de Silva stated it was “too early to say about an oil spill,” however warned that there was “nonetheless a risk.”

“This is among the worst marine disasters that has occurred in Sri Lanka,” stated Dr. Asha de Vos, a marine biologist. “Our solely saving grace is that there was no oil spill. If that occurs, that will probably be extremely tragic.”

X-Press Feeders, the corporate that operated the vessel, stated {that a} container onboard had been leaking nitric acid nicely earlier than the ship entered the waters off Sri Lanka, a teardrop-shaped island close to India.

The ship’s crew requested or not it’s permitted to dump the leaking container at two earlier stops, in India and Qatar, however had been denied as a result of the ports lacked the “specialist services or experience” wanted to “cope with the leaking acid,” based on X-Press Feeders.

The police have questioned the ship’s crew and despatched contaminated water samples to labs for testing. Of the 25 crew members who had been rescued and brought to quarantine services, two required therapy for accidents sustained in the course of the evacuation and one examined optimistic for Covid-19, the ship’s operator stated.

Because the authorities search to find out the reason for the fireplace, locals dwelling alongside the coast close to Colombo, the capital, have begun a significant cleanup.

“I’ve by no means seen something like this earlier than,” stated Dinesh Wijayasinghe, 47, an worker at a lodge within the coastal city of Negombo. “Once I first noticed this, about three to 4 days in the past, the seashore was coated with these pellets. They seemed like fish eyes.”

Mr. Wijayasinghe stated Sri Lankan safety personnel have collected as many as 200 baggage value of plastic pellets day by day for the reason that hearth started.

“Nonetheless, extra retains washing ashore,” he stated. “We’re advised to not go to this space. So we’re preserving away.”

Dr. De Vos, the marine biologist, stated the quantity of plastic discovered on the island’s western and southern coasts was troubling

Plastic air pollution, he stated, generally is a hazard to people and animals, together with endangered species like turtles, which hatch their eggs on the seashore.

“The pellets can soak and soak up the chemical substances from the setting,” he stated. “This is a matter as a result of once we eat complete fish, we will even be consuming these chemical substances.”

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