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Two Indians among crew members rescued by Lankan navy from fire-hit cargo vessel

Both the Indians, who are yet to be identified

SRI LANKA-RIGHTS/UN Sri Lanka flag | Reuters

The Sri Lankan Navy on Tuesday rescued all 25 crew members, including two Indians, of a container ship that caught fire off the coast of Colombo last week, as the coastal command continued efforts to extinguish the fiery wreckage.

Both the Indians, who are yet to be identified, have sustained serious injuries during the rescue operation and are admitted at the Colombo National Hospital, according to media reports.

On May 20, container vessel MV 'X-PRESS PEARL', carrying a consignment of chemicals and raw materials for cosmetics from Hazira in Gujarat to Colombo Port, caught fire 9.5 nautical miles from the coast here where it was anchored, officials said.

Intermittent extinguishing operations were conducted by the Navy, Ports Authority and Marine Environment Protection Authority and the fire was believed to be doused.

However, a loud explosion was heard on Tuesday morning, possibly the fire remains in the sub sections of the vessel where a load of nitric acid is stored, officials said.

The Sri Lankan Air Force was pressed into service with a Bell-212 helicopter.

All 25 crew members -- of Philippine, Chinese, Indian and Russian nationality -- have been rescued, they said.     

The Colombo Gazette newspaper reported that both Indians sustained serious injuries.

The Navy said efforts are underway to completely extinguish the flame. Eight cargo containers fell into the sea during the operations, officials said.


Tug boats have been deployed to reduce the heat surrounding the container, the Navy said.

Two offshore patrol vessels -- Sri Lanka Naval Ship (SLNS) Sagara, Sindurala -- and a fast attack craft are using dry chemical powder to contain the fire.

Navy Spokesman Captain Indika de Silva said the fire was caused by a chemical reaction.

Officials said heavy rains and strong winds have complicated matters further. The vessel is registered under the flag of Singapore. 


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