Cargo Ship Carrying Hazardous Chemicals Sinks Near Sri Lanka After Catching Fire

The blaze burned for over a week on the X-Press Pearl before it could be extinguished Tuesday.

The Sri Lankan Navy says a cargo ship carrying tons of chemicals partially sank after catching fire last month. It’s one of the worst marine disasters Sri Lanka has ever seen, and now a massive cleanup effort is underway.

The blaze burned for more than a week before it could be extinguished Tuesday. The ship is the Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl, and reports say its stern is resting about 70 feet below the surface on the ocean floor.

Some of the hazardous cargo and chemicals from the ship's fuel tanks have possibly leaked into the sea. Because of this, the government has banned fishing for 50 miles around the coast. 

While a salvage crew is trying to tow the ship to deeper waters, the cleanup has already begun. Sri Lanka has deployed its air force to collect debris from the water and the beach. 

Reports say billions of plastic pellets were released into the ocean, and many have already washed up on the sand. Scientists say that since those pellets are not biodegradable, they will persist in the marine environment forever.

Until it is deemed safe, more than 5,000 fishing boats are effectively unable to work, causing a blow to the country’s economy and its environment.

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