Smoke continues to rage despite dousing fire aboard ‘X-Press Pearl’

Plumes of smoke continue to billow from MV ‘X-Press Pearl’ off Colombo Harbour despite dousing the ravaging fire completely, says Sri Lanka Air Force.

A joint effort launched by Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Air Force, Indian Coast Guard and other stakeholders was in full swing for the past few days to control the fire aboard the Singapore-registered container ship.

Owing to the prevailing weather condition and the extensive damage caused by the fire, the vessel is now at risk of sinking, according to reports.

Speaking on the marine environmental risks Sri Lanka is now facing as a result of the cargo ship fire, Marine Environmental Protection Authority (MEPA) Chairperson Darshini Lahandapura stated that the vessel’s debris have reached areas as far as Chilaw and Moratuwa.

Based on the inspections, ten areas were identified as critically polluted and they are now manned by more than 900 army personnel, coast guards and naval personnel, she stated.

In addition, beach cleaning exercises will be carried out for the next two weeks, the MEPA chief noted. The coastal pollution caused by the fire-stricken vessel is enormous and there is a large volume of plastic nurdles mixed with sand making it difficult to clean the affected beaches, she explained further, adding that a huge environmental issue of microplastics will emerge in the long run as a massive portion of these nurdles continue to accumulate underwater.

MEPA chief noted that legal action will soon be sought against relevant parties to claim compensation.

In the meantime, Leading Chemical Oceanographer Prof. Lihini Aluwihare stressed of a potential oil spill is the biggest concern at the moment.

Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology (SLINTEC) has urged the authorities to utilize the home-grown nanotechnology in dealing with any possible oil spill.

Research Scientist Lihini Jayasinghe stated that the SLINTEC is equipped to come up with applications in the event of an oil spill and prevent major damage to marine life. “The SLINTEC has come up with two types of technologies for oil spill clean-ups. One includes the use of waste cotton and the other one includes the use of graphene. Right now, at SLINTEC we have a large-scale production of graphite.”

(Ada derana)

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