India and Sri Lanka battle blaze aboard loaded oil tanker

India and Sri Lanka battle blaze aboard loaded oil tanker
India and Sri Lanka battle blaze aboard loaded oil tanker

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Ships, boats and aircraft from Sri Lanka and India escalated efforts to douse a fire raging on a loaded oil tanker east of Sri Lanka for a second day on Friday.

The Sri Lankan navy confirmed one crew member was killed and another injured “in a boiler explosion” aboard the MT New Diamond on Thursday.

“The fire is still raging there,” navy spokesman Indika Silva said on Friday morning, adding that the fire had not spread into the oil storage area of the ship and no oil leakage had been reported.

A Sri Lankan air force helicopter was picking up seawater to dump on the fire in a “Bambi bucket operation”, air force spokesman Group Capt Dushantha Wijensinghe said. The air force also had an observation aircraft deployed to provide feedback to the authorities.

Photos released by the air force showed smoke rising from the engine room of the ship but no visible damage or fire in other areas of the vessel.

The Sri Lankan navy sent four ships in response to the alarm it received on Thursday, and they picked up 19 crew members who had left the burning tanker on lifeboats, Mr Silva said. As the navy ships tried to put out the fire, the captain and two others abandoned the tanker.

Three ships from Sri Lanka, two ships from India, Indian coast guard aircraft and two Sri Lankan tug boats have joined the firefighting efforts.

The Indian Coast Guard said on Friday that a two-metre crack was seen in the rear of the ship, about 10 metres above the waterline.

The tanker's crew comprised of 18 Filipinos and five Greeks. The dead and injured crew members are both Filipino. The injured man, identified as the third engineer of the ship, was taken to land and admitted to a hospital.

While there were no reports of significant oil leakage, Dharshani Lahandapura, chairperson of Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority said the situation was being monitored. “It will be huge disaster if the spill occurs,” he told Bloomberg.

The ship is located south of a belt known for whale sightings, and any oil spill could threaten marine life in the region.

The tanker was carrying 270,000 tonnes of crude oil from the port of Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip.

At the time of the fire, the Panamanian-registered ship was about 70 kilometres east of Sri Lanka.

Updated: September 4, 2020 10:08 AM

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