Sri Lanka facing marine disaster from burning ship: official

NEGOMBO: Sri Lanka is facing its worst beach pollution crisis as thousands of plastic debris from a dishwasher is washed ashore, a senior environmental official said on Saturday.

Fishermen have been stopped off a coast 80 kilometers (50 miles) off the coast of Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl as an international firefighting operation entered its 10th day.

“There is a permanent smoke and flame visible from the ship,” navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva told AFP. “However, the ship is stable and is still moored.”

Authorities are most concerned about millions of polyethylene pellets being washed on beaches and threatening shallow water for fish breeding.

The affected coast is known for its crabs and shrimp, as well as its tourist beaches.

“This is probably the worst beach pollution in our history,” said Dharshani Lahandapura, head of Sri Lanka’s Environmental Protection and Maritime Protection Authority (MEPA).

Thousands of military and security personnel in hazmat suits are clearing beaches of plastic and other debris from the ship, which caught fire on May 20.

The impact on mangroves, lagoons and wild marine life in the region was being assessed.

The jobs of thousands of fishermen are in jeopardy, according to authorities, and MEPA said a potential oil spill would only add to the devastation.

Most of the ship’s cargo, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid, sodium hydroxide, lubricants and other chemicals, appeared to have been destroyed in the fire, officials said.

The X-Press Pearl caught fire while waiting to enter the port of Colombo and remains anchored slightly outside the port.

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