The situation has worsened over a week after a container fire was detected aboard the X-Press Pearl when it was anchored off the coast of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Images from the area reveal that the fire has engulfed most of the vessel, and the Indian and Sri Lankan teams on the scene say that more cargo and oil have been discovered in the sea. The 37,000 dwt containership is thought to be a total loss, with worries that it may sink and cause a major environmental issue.
Officials brace for a huge oil disaster as desperate efforts to smother the fire continue to fail.
The fire overtook the cargo deck and the containers placed on it, and containers continued to go overboard.
Firefighting efforts are being impeded by adverse weather conditions, particularly strong gusts of winds and rough seas caused by the arrival of the southwest monsoons. The crew was originally active in putting out the fire, which was thought to have begun as a result of a chemical reaction in the cargo, and later was overtaken by the Sri Lanka Navy and Ports Authority. SMIT Salvage has also been assigned to oversee the firefighting and salvage operations.
The Sri Lanka Air Force reports that its helicopters dropped 425 kg of dry chemical power this morning onto the fire, but it seems to have had little effect. Vessels from the Indian Coast Guard and Sri Lanka continue to fight the fire along with three tugboats while efforts are also underway to contain an oil slick that was spotted near the vessel. The vessel remains at anchor off Colombo.
On Wednesday, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) rushed its ships to make a fire on the MV X-Press Pearl container ship off the coasts of Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lankan authorities have asked help from the Indian Coast Guard to conduct fire combat operations, as per ICG. Following government orders, the ICG ship Vaibhav, which was on maritime patrol, was diverted directly to the location of the incident on Tuesday, and the ICG ship Vajra, which was deployed from Tuticorin, arrived at the location in the early hours of May 26 to give vital support to the MV X-Press Pearl's recovery.
A specialized ICG vessel, Samudra Prahari, has also been sent to increase firefighting efforts and, when needed, respond to a possible oil leak.
Meanwhile, ICG has retained formations in Kochi, Chennai, and Tuticorin on standby to provide quick help with pollution response. The Sri Lankan Coast Guard and other Sri Lankan authorities are continuously coordinated to increase the total fire-fighting response onboard MV X-Press Pearl.
ICG Vajra reached Port Colombo earlier on Wednesday to pass over 4500 litres of AFFF and 450 kg of DCP to boost MVX Press Pearl's firefighting operations and sailed ahead to resume the fire-fighting operation.
The president of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, thanked firemen for their efforts through social media and assured civilians that the coastline was being protected. He directed the country's Marine Environmental Protection Agency to begin analysing water around the shore.
This was in response to an increase in complaints of rubbish and containers washing up on the coastline. Although the authorities warned against staying away from the wreckage because of the toxic chemical substances in the debris, images of people hauling the debris in containers surfaced. The authorities warned that investigations have started to track people who gathered the debris, also mentioning violation against covid protocols.