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Sri Lanka is facing a natural disaster as a container tanker begins to sink

A drug-laden ship that has been on fire for about two weeks has begun to sink off the coast of Sri Lanka, threatening a major natural disaster.

Attempts to lift the MV X-Press Pearl barrier in deep water failed Wednesday, prompting a Singaporean employee to change his focus on reducing environmental damage as the risk of oil spills grows.

The ship has already launched one of the most dangerous marine ecosystems in Sri Lanka history, with chemicals from flammable containers entering neighboring waters and plastic bags washing up the sandy beach near Negombo.

The X-Press operator, the agent, told the Financial Times that he had called to Itopf, an NGO responsible for oil and drug losses, and Oil Spill Response, a British oil watchdog group, if the problem facing the vessel threatens to escalate.

The Associated Press has quoted Sri Lankan Navy spokesman Capt Indika de Silva as saying that the ship could cause serious damage if it sank.

Sri lankans salvage wreckage washed off shore from Singapore MV X-Press Pearl © AP

The ship had about 350 tons of fuel under fire but it is not clear how much fire was set on fire and whether a certain volume could be pumped into its tanks.

“The section of the train now touches less than 21 meters,” the X-Press Feeders said in a statement, as the bow could slowly sink with the smoke coming from both hands.

Sri Lanka’s Maritime Safety Authority has drawn up a plan if oil is lost, according to Kanchana Wijesekera, the country’s fisheries minister. Physical barriers can be deployed to reduce the spread and steering vessels can be used to help disperse any fuel.

A fire broke out on May 20 when a ship, carrying 1,486 containers, was docked at Colombo waiting to enter the harbor.

Sri Lankan officials believe the fire was started as a result of the chemicals in the new vessel, including 25 tons of nitric acid, which could be used to make fertilizers and explosives.

The Department of Fisheries has banned vessels from entering the Negombo Lagoon and banned fishing activities from Panadura and Negombo.

Sri Lankan navy and coastal authorities in India have been instrumental in reducing firefighting and reducing pollution.

Twenty-five firefighters and their crew were rescued from the ship after a second explosion last week. One of the crew later tested him for Covid-19. A court of law has enacted a law prohibiting the pilot, the chief engineer, and his assistant from leaving the country.

Chemicals, plastics and oil “lose the natural marine energy” and threaten the livelihoods of those who depend on the sea for their food and livelihood, says John Mimikakis, vice president of Asia at the Environmental Defense Fund.

The crisis highlights “the global environmental crisis that exists today: developing countries have contributed little to oil inflation or climate change, but still have all its challenges,” he added.

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