European firefighters help Sri Lanka with seven-day ship fire

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In this photo provided by the Sri Lankan Air Force, smoke rises from the flame-engulfed MV X-Press Pearl container ship off the port of Colombo, Sri Lanka on Wednesday, May 26 2021. A fire on a container ship carrying chemicals raged in Sri Lanka for a sixth day on Wednesday and India sent ships to help put out the blaze, officials said. (Sri Lanka Air Force via AP)

By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI Associated Press

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) – European firefighters and rescue experts have joined Sri Lankan crews battling a seven-day blaze aboard a container ship carrying chemicals, officials said on Thursday.

The fire aboard the MV X-Press Pearl, anchored off the coast of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, spread to the aft deck where the ship’s deck is, and a large number of containers tumbled into the sea. sea.

X-Press Feeders, which operates the vessel, said firefighters and rescue experts from Europe were working with local authorities to try to save the vessel and its cargo despite inclement weather due to the onset of the southwest monsoons. .

The 25 crew members evacuated the ship on Tuesday after an explosion.

Two of the crew sustained leg injuries and are still in hospital, the company said, adding that the others were in a quarantine facility in Colombo.

Sri Lankan Navy spokeswoman Indika de Silva said on Thursday that efforts to put out the blaze were continuing. Four Sri Lankan and Indian tugboats and three vessels joined the operation.

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 its port.

The Sri Lankan Navy believes the fire was caused by chemicals carried on the Singapore-flagged vessel. It was carrying 1,486 containers, including 25 tonnes of nitric acid and other chemicals that were loaded into the port of Hazira, India on May 15.

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