India dispatches state-of-the-art naval ship to support Sri Lanka's survey efforts around gutted cargo vessel

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Colombo, Jun 25 (PTI) India has dispatched its naval ship, fitted with state-of-the-art equipment, to support Sri Lanka's survey efforts around the gutted cargo vessel sunk outside the port of Colombo to ensure the safety of navigation in the area.

The INS Sarvekshak, which arrived on Thursday, was deployed upon a formal request from the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the safety of navigation in areas outside the Colombo harbour.

'In continuation of Operation Sagar Aaraksha 2, the joint Survey Operations would assist in restoring safe navigation in the area and compliment India's 'Neighbourhood First' policy that calls for, amongst other things, swift support in mitigating such calamities in the Indian Ocean Region,' the Indian High Commission said.

The arrival of the ship, fitted with the state-of-the-art survey equipment including the Side Scan Sonar, would assist in the survey efforts being undertaken in vicinity of the ill fated MV X-Press Pearl and off Colombo, it said.

The joint survey operations would have the coordinated participation of the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA), Sri Lanka Navy and Indian Navy.

The Singapore-flagged cargo ship, which caught fire on May 20, was reportedly carrying 1,486 containers out of which large numbers fell into the sea before the fire was doused after an extensive India-Sri Lanka joint operation as part of Operation Sagar Aaraksha 2.

Many institutions have assessed that the containers that fell off the ship could pose a threat to the livelihood of the fisher community staying along the western coast of Sri Lanka as also to the safety of navigation of marine traffic operating through Colombo port.

The United Nations on Sunday said the cargo vessel has caused 'significant damage to the planet by the release of hazardous substances.' The world body announced a team of experts to determine the full extent of the disaster and necessary follow-up action.

A team of oil spill and chemical experts from the UN and the European Union is working with Sri Lankan agencies to assess the impact of the disaster.

environmentalists have made it clear that the ship's fire could cost the ecological system dearly.

Since the fire at sea, nearly 50 turtles and at least 5 dolphins have washed ashore dead. Though no direct connection has been made officially between the two events.

Similarly, hundreds of large tar balls have drifted onto the beach of Phuket in Thailand since last week. Another unnatural occurrence post the fire, though the two events have not been connected officially.

Sri Lanka had earlier made an interim damage claim of USD 40 million from the owners of the cargo ship, through the Attorney General following a directive by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. PTI CORR RS AKJ RS

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