Tanker on fire near Sri Lanka, environmental disaster threatens

The authorities in Sri Lanka warn of an environmental disaster. About forty kilometres off the coast, a tanker is on fire with 270,000 tons of oil on board. The head of the environmental agency says the tanker could leak or explode. “That could turn out to be a major environmental disaster.”

The tanker New Diamond, flying the Panamanian flag, ran into trouble yesterday seventy kilometers east of the city of Thirukkovil. A fire broke out in the engine room. One crew member was killed, another was injured and 21 people on board could be taken off board on time.

Since then the tanker floats rudderless towards the coast. Water has been poured into it from ships and planes for two days, but the fire has not yet been extinguished.

The oil storage tanks still seem to be intact. A Sri Lankan Navy spokesman says there’s a two-meter crack ten meters above the water line.

An attempt was made to tow the burning ship off the coast, further out into the ocean. It is unclear whether these attempts were stopped.