Sri Lanka says burnt foreign container vessel is sinking

COLOMBO, June 2 (Xinhua) -- The Sri Lanka Navy on Wednesday said the burnt X-Press Pearl container ship which caught fire in the outskirts of the Colombo Port had begun to sink and operations were underway to tow it into deeper seas.

Navy Spokesman Captain Indika De Silva said a private salvage team had started to tow the ship into deeper seas as instructed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the fire onboard had now been completely doused.

State Minister of Fisheries Kanchana Wijesekera said the Fisheries Department had suspended fishing from Panadura in the south all the way to Negombo on the west coast with immediate effect as the salvage company had indicated that the vessel was sinking at the current position.

The minister said emergency preventive measures were taken to protect the Negombo Lagoon and surrounding areas to contain the damage from debris in case of an oil leak.

"Vessels fishing in and around the high seas have also been informed of possible debris and to be vigilant," the minister said.

President Rajapaksa on Tuesday issued instructions to tow the wrecked X-Press Pearl container ship into deep seas off the coast of Colombo after representatives from a number of fields, including shipping and the environment, pointed out that the vessel was now at risk of sinking.

The X-Press Pearl ship is registered under the flag of Singapore and was carrying 1,486 containers with 25 tons of nitric acid and several other chemicals and cosmetics from the port of Hazira, India on May 15.

The vessel sent out a distress call while being close to the Colombo Port on May 20 before catching fire. The Sri Lankan Navy dispatched vessels to bring the fire under control.

Sri Lanka has already begun criminal investigations into the incidents surrounding the ship while the Marine Environment Protection Authority said beaches along the south coast all the way to the west coast had been damaged by the debris which had been washed ashore.

[ Editor: WPY ]