Ships and aircraft from Sri Lanka and India yesterday intensified efforts to extinguish a new fire on an oil tanker off Sri Lanka’s coast, two days after the previous three-day blaze was doused, the Sri Lankan Navy said.
The MT New Diamond is carrying nearly 2 million barrels of crude oil and Sri Lankan officials have warned of possible massive environmental damage to the nation’s coast if the ship leaks or explodes.
The navy had said the initial fire began in an engine room boiler, but did not spread to the tanker’s oil storage area and no leak had been reported.
Photo: AFP / Sri Lanka Air Force
Navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva said the new fire started on Monday evening and firefighting efforts were enhanced.
“The new fire reached up to the previous level, but it has now been contained, but flames are still there,” De Silva said.
High winds, extreme temperatures and sparks reignited it, the navy said in statement.
Ships, tugboats and helicopters from Sri Lanka and India were part of the firefighting efforts.
India yesterday sent fresh supplies of firefighting chemicals to help battle the blaze. The dry power is to be dropped by helicopters on the ship, the Sri Lankan navy said.
The initial fire killed one Philippine crew member and injured another, but the rest escaped uninjured. The Panama-flagged supertanker had 23 crew members — 18 Filipinos and five Greeks.
The tanker had drifted to within 20 nautical miles (37km) of Sri Lanka’s eastern coast before a tugboat towed it farther out to sea. It is now about 30 nautical miles off the coast.
The new fire started as Colombo was planning to send a team to determine whether the fire has damaged the marine environment.
State scientists and universities are to prepare a risk assessment, including the potential for an oil leak, Sri Lankan Marine Environment Protection Authority General Manager Terney Pradeep said.
Meanwhile, 17 British and Dutch professionals sent by Athens-based New Shipping, the owner of the New Diamond, including rescue operation specialists, salvage experts, disaster evaluators and legal consultants, are at the scene, waiting to board the tanker to begin a salvage mission.
SMIT, a Dutch salvage company, said the stern was still too hot and unsafe for them to board the vessel for an inspection.
Additional reporting by AFP
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