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X-Press disaster: Vital info about toxic leak withheld from Colombo says Minister Amaraweera

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By Ifham Nizam

MV X-press Pearl vessel had toxic chemicals in it, however, neither the Colombo Port nor its harbour master had been notified of an acid leak before the arrival of the ship in Colombo, Environment Minister Mahinda  Amaraweera  said yesterday adding therefore, the ship’s captain as well as its local agent should be held responsible for withholding vital information.

Minister Amaraweera said that the ship’s black box would reveal who was responsible for the ecological and economic disaster. “All of them should be prosecuted,” he said.

Environmental damage caused by the burning of the ship would continue for another 20 years and that the environmental damage caused by it could not be quantified, Minister Amaraweera said.

“Marine Environment Protection Authority Chairman informed me that a team from her institution had already been sent to the wreck of the ship to conduct investigations and obtain oil samples.

Burnt debris from the wreck has affected more than 150 km of Sri Lanka’s  coastline, according to International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) experts who are onsite.

MEPA is working with the Sri Lanka Navy to coordinate the pollution clean-up. ITOPF said more than 1,000 people were involved “most days” in the operation. Specialist pollution response company Oil Spill Response has also arrived in Sri Lanka and will work with ITOPF in providing technical assistance.

MEPA has set up a sampling programme to determine the extent of pollution from the vessel. The ship is reported to have been carrying 46 different chemicals including nitric acid and sodium dioxide.

The clearest evidence of pollution has come from billions of tiny plastic pellets, known as nurdles, which have washed ashore.

“The pollutants of particular concern are nurdles, as they have the potential to spread over vast distances and recovery of these small plastic pellets can be difficult and protracted,” ITOPF said.

A large part of the nurdules  had washed up on Sri Lankan beaches.  “We do not know how much more was eaten by fish in the ocean. According to the information I have, plastic pallets piled up on the beach have been collected and stored in 40 containers.”



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At least 17 killed after explosion in Peshawar mosque

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(picture from twitter)

BBC reported that at least 17 people have been killed in an explosion at a mosque in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The blast happened when the mosque was packed with worshippers and more than 90 people were injured.

A section of the building was destroyed, and officials say people are buried under the rubble. Several others are being taken to local hospitals.

The cause of the explosion is unclear.

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More heavy rain ahead for New Zealand’s largest city

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Auckland experienced an unprecedented amount of rainfall on Friday (picture BBC)

BBC reported that residents in flood-hit northern New Zealand are bracing for more heavy rains as officials issued severe weather alerts.

At least four people have died and a state of emergency was declared in Auckland, which on Friday experienced its worst downpour on record.

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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled

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by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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