COLOMBO – An Indian coast guard aircraft sprayed a special chemical on a patch of diesel fuel near a large oil tanker off Sri Lanka's coast where firefighters are battling a new blaze that broke out two days after an earlier fire was extinguished, the navy said.
The MT New Diamond is carrying nearly 2 million barrels of crude oil and officials have warned of possible massive environmental damage to Sri Lanka’s coast if the ship leaks or explodes.
Navy spokesman Capt. Indika de Silva said the new fire started Monday evening and reached the magnitude of the previous blaze. Firefighters have contained it but it is still burning, he said.
High winds, extreme temperatures on the ship and sparks reignited it, the navy said, adding that so far there is no risk of a crude oil leak or of the fire spreading into the oil storage area.
The navy said the initial fire began in an engine room boiler and did not spread to the oil storage area.
However, it said “a diesel patch” had been spotted in the ocean about one kilometer (0.6 mile) from the ship. The patch is likely to be diesel fuel from the ship, it said. The ship has about 1,700 tons of diesel fuel to power its engines.
An Indian coast guard aircraft sprayed a chemical on the patch to minimize damage to the marine environment, the navy said.
Ships and helicopters from Sri Lanka and neighboring India are taking part in the firefighting efforts.
The initial fire killed one Filipino crew member and injured another, but 21 other crew members escaped uninjured.
Twenty were taken to the southern port city of Galle on Tuesday, while the captain remained on a ship near the tanker to help firefighting efforts, de Silva said.
The tanker is about 30 nautical miles (55 kilometers) off the coast, the navy said.
The tanker was transporting crude oil from the port of Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip, where the state-owned Indian Oil Corp. has a refinery.