Salvagers board gutted cargo vessel off Colombo coast

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Colombo, June 1 (PTI) The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka on Tuesday said marine salvagers had climbed onto the Singapore-flagged cargo vessel, which caught fire near the Colombo beach last week, after emergency units of both countries successfully brought the blaze under control after nearly 12 days of firefighting.

''OperationSagarAraksha2' reaches a milestone!! Salvors have finally embarked on #MVXPressPearl after dousing the fire. Assessments are being carried out,' the mission tweeted.

'These pictures speak of the progress made by the teams from #India and #SriLanka. @IndiaCoastGuard @MFA_SriLanka,' tweeted the official Twitter handle of the high commission, along with four photographs of the ship without any smoke or flame.

The images showed the super structure of the ship twisted and melted in parts, as containers were bent in an odd shape. The entire vessel was covered in black soot.

The cargo vessel- MV 'X-PRESS PEARL'- was carrying a consignment of chemicals and raw materials for cosmetics from Hazira in Gujarat to Colombo Port.

It caught fire 9.5 nautical miles from the coast here, where it was anchored outside the Port of Colombo on May 20.

Apart from the 325 metric tonnes of fuel in its tanks, X-Press Pearl was loaded with 1,486 containers carrying about 25 tonnes of hazardous nitric acid. India on May 25 dispatched ICG Vaibhav, ICG Dornier and Tug Water Lilly to help the Sri Lankan Navy extinguish the fire.

India's specialised pollution response vessel Samudra Prahari reached on May 29. India had named the rescue efforts Operation Sagar Araksha 2.

All 25 crew members of the ship -- of Indian, Chinese, Filipino and Russian nationality -- were rescued on May 21.

Sri Lanka's Marine Environment Pollution Authority had called it the worst marine ecological disaster facing the country as the possibility of a massive oil spill loomed.

The coastal area is known for fishing, and mangroves around the Negombo Lagoon -- a major tourist attraction and sensitive ecological spot.

Authorities have begun the investigation into the fire and statements would be recorded of one Indian and two Russian officials on duty in the vessel.

While the Indian official was the deputy chief engineer of the ship, the two Russians are the captain and chief engineer respectively. PTI CORR IND AKJ IND