MV X-Press Pearl fire considerably reduced, no oil spill detected: Coast Guard
The Indian Coast Guard said on Sunday that three of its ships - Samudra Prahari, Vaibhav and Vajra - continued with firefighting operations onboard the massive container ship MV X-Press Pearl on Sunday. The MV X-Press Pearl has been smouldering on the horizon for the last 11 days after a blaze broke out as it was heading to Colombo from Gujarat.
Visuals shared by news agency ANI showed an Indian Coast Guard plane carrying out recces to check the progress of firefighting. The Coast Guard also said that the fire has considerably reduced with moderate density smoke and no oil spill has been detected, according to ANI.
The cargo vessel was carrying a consignment of chemicals and raw materials for cosmetics from Gujarat’s Hazira to Colombo Port. The vessel caught fire on May 20, 9.5 nautical miles from the Sri Lankan coast. The MV X-Press Pearl was loaded with 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks and had 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid.
The Indian Coast Guard, European firefighters and salvage experts joined firefighting crews from Sri Lanka in dousing the flames aboard the container ship. Sri Lanka is also facing one its worst marine ecological disasters as plastic swamped its famous beaches leading the Sri Lankan government to launch a probe into the massive container ship fire. Sri Lanka's navy chief, Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne, earlier on Sunday said the fire is under control.
The Sri Lankan Marine Environment Protection Authority has already filed a complaint and the police will question the 25-member crew of the ship on Monday, according to news agency AFP.
Sri Lankan authorities also said that a nitric acid leak occurred on May 11 and the crew was aware of this development. The island nation has also asked its fishermen to stay away from the 80-kilometre stretch of the coast where plastic pellets have washed up following the fire. Fisheries minister Kanchana Wijesekera said the incident will affect 4,500 fishermen as well dent the tourism industry of Negombo. Navy personnel were seen cleaning millions of plastic granules mixed with burned oil and other residue from the Negombo beach on Sunday. Sri Lanka plans to sue the owners of the vessel following the incident.
India’s defence ministry has said that Indian Coast Guard formations at Kochi, Chennai and Tuticorin are on standby to provide immediate assistance and are in touch with Sri Lankan authorities.