The six-member team is currently on a tug boat on its way to the burning vessel, Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena said.
A massive fire erupted in the cargo vessel ‘X-Press Pearl’ carrying Nitric Acid and other chemicals on May 20.
It was in anchorage about 9.5 nautical miles northwest of Colombo harbour at the time of the incident. The vessel had reached the location on May 19 before its entry into the harbour.
The vessel, registered under the flag of Singapore, had departed with 1,486 containers with 25 tons of Nitric Acid, several other chemicals, and cosmetics from the port of Hazira, India on May 15.
India, responding to an emergency request by Sri Lanka Navy, has deployed multiple assets – Vessels Vaibhav, Vajra, and Samudra Prehari by Indian Coast Guard and Tug Water Lilly by Director General, Shipping to douse the fire on MV ‘X-Press Pearl.’ In addition, Dornier aircraft was deployed for aerial reconnaissance.
The distressed container ship was reportedly manned by a crew of 25, who are Philippine, Chinese, Indian, and Russian nationals.
Sri Lanka Navy on Tuesday (May 25) managed to rescue all crew members from the burning vessel. Two injured Indian nationals among them were admitted to National Hospital in Colombo for treatment. Reports revealed that one of the two injured crew members tested positive for COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) said 08 cargo containers had fallen into the sea.
Debris such as metal scraps, plastics, and snacks drifted from the vessel were found along the shores of Negombo in Ja-Ela, Kepumgoda, Seththappaduwa, Pamunugama, Kochchikade, and Dungalpitiya areas.
The public was strictly warned against touching or opening toxic or poisonous material or packages from the burning and abandoned ship reaching the shores.
However, people were seen picking up snacks such as chocolates and biscuits washed up on the shores from a container that fell into the water from the vessel.
Sri Lanka Police have initiated investigations to trace people who collected the debris disregarding the warnings of the authorities as well as the travel restrictions and 08 such persons have been arrested so far.
Video footage is used to identify the individuals in question, the police media spokesman said in a statement.
Legal action against them will be sought under the provisions of the Quarantine and Prevention of Diseases Ordinance and the relevant sections of the Penal Code, he noted.