A fire-damaged container vessel faced an imminent risk of sinking on Wednesday just off the Sri Lankan coast raising new fears of a bigger marine ecological disaster, the navy said.
“The ship is facing an imminent risk of going down,” spokesman Indika de Silva said hours after the Dutch Salvage firm SMIT attempted to tow the Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl further out to sea.
An AFP photographer at Sarakkuwa, just north of the Colombo port said the vessel’s stern was underwater.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had ordered the crippled container carrier to be moved into deeper waters to prevent an oil spill near Sri Lanka’s west coast should it sink near its anchorage near the Colombo port.
Fisheries minister Kanchana Wijesekera tweeted: “The salvage company involved in #XPressPearl has indicated that the vessel is sinking at the current location.”
Emergency measures were in place to protect the nearby Negombo lagoon and surrounding areas to contain the damage form any debris or in case of an oil leak, he added.
Tonnes of small plastic granules carried aboard the X-Press Pearl has already inundated a coastline of 80 kilometres (50 miles) along Sri Lanka’s western seaboard causing the worst marine ecological disaster.
Any oil spill is feared to compound the problem as the vessel was known to carry 278 tonnes of bunker oil and another 50 tonnes of gas oil in its tanks.
The fire first broke out on May 20 as it was about to enter the Colombo harbour. The fire was put out Tuesday after a 13-day international effort helped by India’s coastguard and SMIT.
Sri Lanka has launched a criminal investigation into the fire and the pollution with the three senior most crewmen asked to remain in the island till investigations are completed.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)