ICG sends two ships to firefight as merchant vessel catches fire off Colombo coast

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New Delhi, May 25 (PTI) The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has sent two ships to firefight and augment pollution control measures as a major fire ignited onboard merchant vessel X-Press Pearl on Tuesday morning near the coast of Sri Lankan capital Colombo. 'Sri Lankan authorities have sought ICG assistance towards fire fighting and for augmenting pollution response measures in the light of oil spill,' the ICG's statement noted.

The vessel was holding about 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks, which is likely to pose a threat of oil spill, it explained.

X-Press Pearl was loaded with 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid and other chemicals, it noted.

Initially, a fire occurred onboard X-Press Pearl, which is nine nautical miles from the Colombo port, on May 20 and it was brought under control within a day, it said. A major fire ignited on board the vessel again on Tuesday morning, it said.

ICG ship Vaibhav, an offshore patrol vessel with external foam fire fighting and pollution response capabilities on maritime patrol, was diverted for assistance and arrived on scene of incident on Tuesday, it stated. 'Another ICG offshore patrol vessel Vajra with similar capabilities for fire fighting and pollution response has also been deployed ex- Tuticorin,' it noted.

Another set of ICG ships are on standby at Kochi, Chennai and Tuticorin if more assistance is required in this operation, it mentioned.

Further, ICG aircraft are being brought to Tuticorin from Chennai and Kochi for aerial surveillance and pollution response,' it stated. Press Pearl was manned by 25 crew including 5 Indians, all of whom have been evacuated, it said. PTI DSP AAR AAR