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India joins firefighting effort off Colombo port

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Explosions on board chemical carrying ship

The crew of container carrier X-Press Pearl yesterday (25) abandoned the vessel following several explosions. Authoritative sources said that those engaged in firefighting evacuated the 25-member crew. Two of them had suffered injuries, sources said, adding that the fire was raging out of control. The injured have been admitted to the National Hospital.

The fire erupted on May 19 nine nautical miles off the Colombo port. The vessel was carrying chemicals.

Sources said that in spite of two foreign firefighting tugs joining three local vessels, the situation couldn’t be brought under control hence the decision to call for Indian assistance.

The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) admitted it lacked sufficient strength to tackle a fire onboard a ship. Sources said that following the explosion several containers fell into the sea and the chemicals could pose quite a threat to the coast from Colombo to Negombo and even beyond.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission said that India promptly responded to an emergency request by Sri Lanka Navy and deployed multiple assets to douse the fire on MV XPress Pearl off Colombo yesterday May 25. The Indian statement: “This includes Vessels Vaibhav, Vajra and Samudra Prehari by Indian Coast Guard and Tug Water Lilly by Director General, Shipping in addition to Dornier aircraft for aerial reconnaissance.

Assistance of Government of India for firefighting as well as pollution control was sought by Sri Lanka Navy at 1200 hrs on 25 May 2021.  This came in the wake of an onboard explosion on 25 May 2021 on the Singapore-flagged MV X Press Pearl. Immediately upon receiving the request, relevant authorities in India were alerted and assets were deployed expeditiously. While the Dornier aircraft reached Colombo at around 1600 hrs on 25 May 2021, the first Vessel would reach around 1900 hrs.

India has the tradition of being the first responder during crises in Sri Lanka. It may be recalled that a potentially huge oil spill was averted with assistance from India after MT New Diamond with 200,000 metric tonnes of crude oil on board caught fire off Sri Lanka’s Eastern Coast in September 2020. Similarly three Indian Naval Ships rushed with assistance following the floods in Sri Lanka in May 2017.”



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(pic PMD)

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