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Crewman killed as oil tanker fire rages for second day off Sri Lanka coast

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Colombo (AFP)

A Panamanian-registered oil tanker burned out of control for a second day off Sri Lanka on Friday as authorities confirmed a Filipino crew member was killed in an explosion and fears grew of a major new oil spill in the Indian Ocean.

Sri Lankan navy and Indian coastguard vessels fired water cannon at the blaze on the New Diamond, which issued a distress call Thursday after its engine room exploded.

A Sri Lankan helicopter was dropping water from the air on the blaze at the rear of the vessel.

The fire had not spread to the 270,000 tonnes of crude and 1,700 tonnes of diesel the tanker is carrying, Sri Lanka’s navy said.

“Preliminary information from the ship’s crew confirmed that a Filipino seaman on board had died in a boiler explosion,” the navy said in a statement.

All but one of the 23-member crew — 18 Filipinos and five Greek nationals — were rescued on Thursday.

The ship’s third officer, also a Filipino, had suffered burn injuries and was taken to the Kalmunai hospital, 360 kilometres (225 miles) east of the capital Colombo. His condition was stable, the navy spokesman said.

Neighbouring India has sent warships and coastguard vessels to help with the rescue, while Sri Lanka’s air force deployed a helicopter to douse the flames.

The tanker was about 60 kilometres (38 miles) from Sri Lanka’s east coast when it sounded the alert and during the night drifted 10 kilometres closer.

Sri Lanka’s navy said it believed there was no immediate danger to the coastline but remained concerned about the possibility of oil leaking.

The New Diamond is classified as a very large crude carrier (VLCC), and is about 330 metres (1,080 feet) long.

The stricken vessel is a third larger than the Japanese bulk carrier MV Wakashio, which crashed into a reef in Mauritius last month leaking over 1,000 tonnes of oil into the island nation’s picturesque waters.

The New Diamond had been taking the crude from Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip.

 



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Six nabbed with over 100 kg of ‘Ice’

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By Norman Palihawadane and Ifham Nizam

The Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) yesterday arrested six suspects in the Sapugaskanda Rathgahawatta area with more than 100 kilos of Crystal Methamphetamine also known as Ice.

Police Media Spokesman, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Ajith Rohana told the media that the PNB sleuths, acting on information elicited from a suspect in custody had found 91 packets of Ice.

A man in possession of 100 kilos of heroin was arrested in Modera during the weekend and revealed that a haul of Ice had been packed in plastic boxes.

The PNB seized more than 114 kilos of Ice from the possession of a single drug network.

According to the information elicited from the suspects, more than 100 kilos of Ice were found.

The PNB also arrested six persons including two women with 13 kilos of Ice, during an operation carried out in the Niwandama area in Ja-Ela on Sunday.

DIG Rohana said the ice had been packed in small plastic boxes and hidden in two school bags.

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PM intervenes to iron out differences among coalition partners

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By Norman Palihawadane

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday said that he was confident that differences among the constituents of the SLPP coalition as regards the May Day celebrations and the next Provincial Council elections could be ironed out soon.

Leaders of all SLPP allied parties have been invited to a special meeting to be held at Temple Trees with the PM presiding on April 19.

Prime Minister Rajapaksa said it was natural for members of a political alliance to have their own standpoints and views on matters of national importance. “This is due to the different political ideologies and identities. It is not something new when it comes to political alliances world over. In a way, it shows that there is internal democracy within our alliance.

The PM said: “As a result of that the allied parties may express their own views on issues, but that does not mean there is a threat to the unity of the alliance. An alliance is more vibrant and stronger not when all the parties think on the same lines but when the member parties have different ideologies.”

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Thilo Hoffman remembered

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A copy of the book “Politics of a Rainforest: Battles to save Sinharaja” was handed over to Dominik Furgler, the Swiss Ambassador in Sri Lanka by the author of the book, Dr. Prasanna Cooray at the Swiss Embassy in Colombo last Tuesday, to be sent to the family of the late Thilo Hoffman in Switzerland.

Hoffman, a Swiss national, who made Sri Lanka his second home for six decades, was a pioneering environmental activist who led the battles to save Sinharaja from the front in the early 1970s, abreast with the likes of Iranganie Serasinghe, Kamanie Vitharana, Lynn De Alwis and Nihal Fernando of the “Ruk Rekaganno” fame. That was the era when the trees of Sinharaja were felled for the production of plywood by the then government. Hoffman was also a livewire of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) for a long time. Hoffman died in 2014 at the age of 92.

The book includes a chapter on Thilo Hoffman.

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