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Sabtu, 29 Mei 2021

Sri Lanka faces 'worst beach pollution' in history from burning ship - ABC News

Sri Lanka faces an unprecedented pollution crisis as waves of plastic waste from a burning container ship hit the coast and threaten to devastate the local environment, a top environment official warns.

Thousands of navy sailors have been using mechanical diggers at beaches to scoop up tonnes of tiny plastic granules that have come from the Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl, which has been smouldering on the horizon for 10 days.

Sri Lanka's Marine Protection Authority (MEPA) said the microplastic pollution could cause years of ecological damage to the Indian Ocean island.

Smoke rises from the container vessel MV X-Press Pearl engulfed in flames
The X-Press Pearl, which caught fire as it waited to enter Colombo Harbour, remains anchored just outside the port.(

AP: Sri Lanka Air Force

)

The tiny polyethylene pellets threaten beaches popular with tourists as well as shallow waters used by fish to breed.

Fishing has been banned along an 80-kilometre stretch of coast near the ship that has been burning for 10 days despite an international firefighting operation.

"There is smoke and intermittent flames seen from the ship," navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva said.

Orange-coloured plastic booms were set up in case oil leaks from the crippled ship reached Negombo Lagoon, which is famed for its crabs and jumbo prawns.

Thousands of small boats were beached at Negombo on Saturday because of the fishing ban.

Sri Lankan navy soldiers clad in protective suits clean up a beach
Much of the ship's cargo is thought to have been destroyed in the fire.(

AP: Eranga Jayawardena

)

'No end in sight' for disaster

Navy sailor Manjula Dulanjala said his team had almost cleared the beach on Friday evening, but was shocked to find it covered again the following morning.

"This is like the coronavirus. No end in sight. We removed all the plastic yesterday, only to see more of it dumped by the waves overnight," he said.

The pellets and waste were packed into green and white polythene sacks and taken away by trucks.

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An officer leading another team that on certain parts of the beach the microplastics and charred debris were 60 centimetres deep.

Local fisherman Peter Fernando, 68, said he had never seen such destruction.

The December 2004 Asian tsunami devastated much of the island's coastline and killed an estimated 31,000 people, but only damaged coastal infrastructure.

A navy soldier dressed in personal protection equipment pushes a large piece of debris up the beach
A Sri Lankan Navy sailor inspects a large piece of debris from the X-Press Pearl.(

Reuters: Dinuka Liyanawatte

)

Roman Catholic priest Sujeewa Athukorale said most of his parishioners were fishermen who risked becoming destitute.

"Their immediate need is to be allowed to go back to the sea," he said.

Sri Lanka's mangroves threatened

Fisherman Lakshan Fernando, 30, said people feared the plastic waste could destroy mangroves as well as the corals where fish breed in the shallow water.

 smoke rises from the container vessel MV X-Press Pearl engulfed in flames off Colombo port.
An oil leak from the vessel would increase the risk of devastation.(

AP: Sri Lanka Air Force

)

"No-one is able to say how long we will have the adverse effects of this pollution," he told AFP. 

An oil leak from the vessel, said to be carrying 278 tonnes of bunker oil and 50 tonnes of diesel, would increase the risk of devastation.

Much of the ship's cargo, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid, sodium hydroxide, lubricants and other chemicals, appeared to have been destroyed in the fire, officials said.

The X-Press Pearl caught fire as it waited to enter Colombo Harbour. It remains anchored just outside the port.

Sri Lankans push a barrel shore, washed up from burning a burning ship
Sri Lanka faces an unprecedented pollution crisis as a result of the ship fire.(

AP: Eranga Jayawardena

)

An international salvage operation is being led by Dutch company SMIT, which has sent specialist firefighting tugs. India has sent coastguard vessels to help Sri Lanka's navy.

SMIT was also involved in dousing a burning oil tanker off Sri Lanka's east coast last September after an engine room explosion killed a crew member.

The fire on the New Diamond took more than a week to put out and left a 40-kilometre-long oil spill.

Sri Lanka has demanded the owners pay US$17 million ($22 million) for the clean-up.

AFP

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2021-05-30 02:11:09Z
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