T.N. coast on alert after ship sinks

Sinking of mv X-Press Pearl has raised serious environmental concerns

Intelligence agencies have sounded an alert on the possibility of hazardous chemical debris getting washed ashore along Tamil Nadu coast in the next few days following the sinking of Singapore-flagged vessel mv X-Press Pearl off the Sri Lankan coast on June 2.

In what is described as the worst marine ecological disaster, the vessel anchored 9.5 nautical miles off Colombo Port in Sri Lankan waters caught fire on May 20, with a huge consignment of chemicals, including nitric acid, loaded in 1,486 containers on board. The ship was holding 325 tonnes of fuel in its tanks.

Top police sources said the spillage of oil had triggered fears of serious environmental concerns. Immediately after the fire was reported, the Indian Coast Guard and Sri Lankan Navy, as part of Operation Sagar Aaraksha, jointly launched fire-fighting and pollution control response.

While the fire was put out on June 2, the ship sank in the outer anchorage and reached the sea bottom after an unsuccessful attempt by the authorities to tow the vessel to deeper seas.

The alert pointed to the possibility of hazardous chemical debris and oil waste being washed ashore between Kanniyakumari and Ramanathapuram, the sources said. Senior police officials in coastal districts were told to take steps to avert any disaster and coordinate with agencies concerned, sources added.

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