Explosion rocks burning boxship in Sri Lankan capital; crew safely evacuated

Photo: Sri Lanka Navy

An anchored containership that had been burning for six straight days off Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo suffered an onboard explosion as firefighting efforts and crew evacuations were underway.

Local authorities said the blast occurred in one of the interior spaces of the Singaporean-flagged X-Press Pearl as all 25 of its crew as well as 12 responding firefighters were being evacuated by Sri Lanka Navy vessels on Tuesday, May 25.

Even before the explosion took place, authorities had already requested the crew and the firefighters to abandon ship after the onboard blaze worsened due to strong winds.

The blast left two Indian crewmen with serious burn injuries in addition to causing some of the containers to fall overboard.

As firefighting vessels continued battling the blaze, a number of tugs and navy vessels towed the stricken containership more than 50 nautical miles away from the coast to lessen the risk of pollution within Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.

The Indian Coast Guard has despatched the patrol and pollution control vessel ICGS Vaibhav to the area to assist the Sri Lankan authorities in emergency response efforts.

Meanwhile, residents living in Colombo’s coastal communities have been advised to avoid nearby beaches as debris from the burning ship may have already washed ashore.

Authorities said X-Press Pearl‘s cargo included chemicals such as nitric acid. It was reported earlier that the blaze on the ship first ignited on Thursday, May 20, as a result of the chemicals in one of the containers coming into direct contact with rainwater.

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