Authorities warn against 'acid rains' due to burning cargo ship
Sri Lanka's apex environment body has warned that there could be slight acid rains due to the emission of nitrogen dioxide from the Singapore-flagged cargo ship which caught fire on May 20, 9.5 nautical miles from the coast in Colombo. The cargo vessel, MV X-PRESS PEARL, was carrying a consignment of chemicals and raw materials for cosmetics from Hazira in Gujarat to Colombo Port.
Vessel loaded with about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid
Apart from 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks, X-Press Pearl was loaded with 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid. "The Nitrogen Dioxide emissions from the MV X-PRESS PEARL were massive," Dharshani Lahandapura, Chairperson of Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) said. The people in close proximity to the coastal belt should remain vigilant and not expose themselves to rain.
Authorities working on a quick clean-up to avoid pollution
MEPA said that the blaze has been brought under control to a great extent and the authority is taking all appropriate measures to conduct beach clean-up procedures as soon as possible to avert the risks of pollution caused due to the fire. "The density of the flames is reducing. Two tug boats are still engaged in firefighting missions and boundary calls," Lahandapura said.
No sign of any oil spill: Lahandapura
Vessels from the Indian Coast Guard and tug boats from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and Sri Lanka Navy are monitoring the situation. Lahandapura said, "They are closely monitoring the situation and there is no sign of any oil spill."
India is helping to augment pollution control efforts
India on Tuesday dispatched ICG Vaibhav, ICG Dornier, and Tug Water Lilly to help the Sri Lankan Navy extinguish the fire. India's specialized pollution response vessel Samudra Prahari will reach on Saturday to augment pollution control efforts. The Indian High Commission in Colombo said that at present, heavy smoke has been observed only near the accommodation area in the ship's aft portion.
Assessment says the cargo ship is presently stable
Overall, the MV X-PRESS PEARL is currently assessed as being stable and not having issues with watertight integrity. External fire-fighting using foam and boundary cooling by sea-water along the entire length of the vessel from either side is under progress and continuous monitoring of vessel's draught, list conditions and presence of hazardous and noxious substances overboard are being undertaken.
ICG ships will assess the situation before further action
"Quantity of combustible material is estimated to be limited. The ICG ships will assess the situation and the decision to board or approach closer to the vessel will be taken after fully dousing the fire and undertaking sufficient boundary cooling," the Indian mission said.
Ship will not break into two: Navy Commander
The High Commission said that containers that fell from the vessel were identified and threat assessment for navigation safety has already been carried out and shared with the relevant Sri Lankan authorities. Meanwhile, Navy Commander Nishantha Ulugetenne on Friday said there is no threat of the vessel breaking into two. All 25 crew members of the ship were rescued on Tuesday.