As part of an international effort to save the ship, tons of burnt plastic from a burning container ship washed ashore near the Sri Lankan capital on Friday.
Dark black smoke billowed from the MV X-Press Pearl, registered in Singapore, anchored outside the port of Colombo, raising fears that it could destroy its 288 tonnes of bunker oil.
Nine kilometers (2 miles) north of the capital, naval personnel were sent in Hajmat suits to clean up millions of plastic granules mixed with essential oil and other debris covering the Negambo coast.
The plastic-covered beach, commonly known as a draw and a fishing center for tourists, was declared out of bounds. Smoke container ships can be seen on the horizon.
The bulldozers dropped the team’s polythene bullets that came from at least eight containers that fell off the ship at least Tuesday.
Officials said the ship would be used as a raw material in the packaging industry to carry at least two containers.
The fire broke out on May 20 as the ship was waiting to enter Colombo port.
It also carries 21 tons of nitric acid, an unspecified amount of ethanol and lubricant in its 150,000 containers.
Officials believe the fire was caused by a nitric acid leak that crews have been aware of since May 11, according to Sri Lanka’s Maritime Environmental Protection Authority.
MEPA president Dharashani Lahandapura said the accident could have been avoided if the ship had loaded the leaking containers or brought them back to the original port before entering Sri Lankan waters.
Lahanpura said the MEPA was trying to penetrate the oil if the X-Press Pearl broke down as the monsoon winds blew flames along the length of the ship.
She said the ship was carrying 2,278 tonnes of bunker oil and gas0 tonnes of marine petrol when the fire broke out.
Oil residue and herb containers have already been washed in Negombo.
Sri Lanka’s Chief of Naval Staff Chief Vice Admiral Nishantha Ulugetenne said on Thursday that it would take a few days to control the weather and put out the fire.
Four Indian ships joined the Sri Lankan navy in a battle to control the fire. Rescue operations are being led by Dutch company SMIT, which has sent expert firefighters.
The 25-member team was evacuated on Tuesday and the two suffered minor injuries in the process, shipowners said Thursday.
SMIT, a well-known rescue troubleshooter, was also involved in setting fire to oil tankers that were setting fire to the east coast of Sri Lanka last September.
The fire in the new diamond tanker took more than a week and spilled oil at a kilometer (225 miles) long. Sri Lanka has asked employers to pay a clean bill of सफा 1 million.
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