Container ship turns into floating inferno off Colombo, ICG on way

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Chennai, May 25 (IANS) The Indian Coast Guard has rushed two of its ships with capability to fight fire and undertake pollution response to douse the major fire on container carrier MV X-Press Pearl near Sri Lanka’s Colombo port, officials said on Tuesday.

According to the Coast Guard, a major fire broke out onboard the container carrier ship anchored about nine nautical miles from Colombo port.

“The vessel was enroute from Hazira to Colombo and loaded with 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tons of hazardous nitric acid and other chemicals.

“The ship was manned by 25 crew including five Indians, all of whom have been evacuated,” the Coast Guard said.

The Indian coastal security agency said that the ship had caught fire on May 20 but it was brought under control by the next day.

However, on May 21, the fire re-ignited after an explosion onboard, reportedly due to the collapse of few of the containers due to rough weather.

About 8-10 containers reported to have fallen overboard post the explosion and the fire.

The vessel is holding about 325 metric tons of fuel in its tanks, which is likely to pose a threat of oil spill, Coast Guard said.

Sri Lankan authorities have sought Indian Coast Guard assistance towards fire fighting and for augmenting pollution response measures in light of the oil spill.

According to the Coast Guard, its assets at Kochi, Chennai and Thoothukodi are on standby for immediate assistance for pollution control.

Further Coast Guard aircraft are being brought to Thoothukodi from Chennai and Kochi for aerial surveillance and pollution response.