Fishermen feel the impact of Sri Lanka ship disaster
KEPUMGODA, Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan fishermen are already feeling the impact of an ongoing environmental disaster caused by the slow sinking of a fire-ravaged cargo ship that had been loaded with chemicals.
Fishing remained banned on Friday along some 50 miles of coastline, as debris from the Singapore-flagged MV X-Press Pearl, including tons of plastic pellets and burnt fiberglass, continued to sink in. run aground on the shore.
Authorities were also on their guard for a possible oil and chemical leak from the ship, which began to sink off the country’s main port on Wednesday, a day after a fire raged on the ship was extinguished. ship for 12 days.
A lone fisherman, Kinson Jayalath, defied the Kepumgoda beach ban on Friday. He said he was trying to grab food for his family but was increasingly frustrated with the lack of fish in an area where he said there had been plenty of it there. barely a week.
In a nearby village with many people who depend on the fishing industry, Ajith Nelson said that even before the restrictions were announced, fishermen had their nets destroyed by huge chunks of cotton getting tangled in them. .
While fishing is still allowed in deeper waters, sales of seafood have plummeted because consumers fear chemical contamination, said Herman Kumara of the National Fishing Solidarity Movement.
As the ship began to sink, crews attempted to tow it into deeper water away from port, but failed after the ship’s stern was submerged and rested on the seabed 70 feet below the surface. . The ship continued to take on water on Friday.
Shumel Yoskovitz, the managing director of X-Press Feeders vessel operators, apologized for the disaster on Friday in an interview with Channel News Asia.
“I would like to express my deep regret and apologies to the Sri Lankan people for the harm this incident has caused to both livelihoods and the environment of Sri Lanka,” Yoskovitz said.
The fire broke out on May 20 when the ship was anchored about 9.5 nautical miles (18 kilometers) northwest of Colombo and waiting to enter port.
X-Press Feeders said the fire destroyed most of the ship’s cargo, which included 25 tons of nitric acid and other chemicals. He said rescue experts were staying with the ship to monitor its condition and any pollution.
Colombo port captain Nirmal Silva said tons of oil in the ship’s fuel tanks may also have burned with the blaze, but authorities were prepared to deal with an oil spill.
The Navy and Coast Guard prepared for a spill with help from neighboring India. India sent three ships to help, including one specially equipped to deal with marine pollution.
Sri Lankan police are investigating the blaze and a Colombo court on Tuesday banned the captain, engineer and assistant engineer from leaving the country. The government said it would take legal action against the owners of the ship to seek compensation.
The Kumara Fishermen’s Group and other activist groups on Friday asked the Supreme Court to call on authorities to assess the long-term damage to the environment and marine life, the possible danger of eating fish. and health impacts. The petition called on the owners of the ship, their local agent and the state to pay compensation to those affected.
The petitioners told the court that they had obtained the list of goods carried on the ship through a right to information law and that the shipment included nitric acid, caustic soda, sodium methoxide. sodium, plastic, lubricating oil, quicklime, sodium oxide, high density polyethylene, low density polyethylene, methanol, bright yellow sulfur, urea and cosmetics.
Silva said the ship’s captain did not withhold any information about the cargo on board and there were no violations of the rules.