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President appreciates joint efforts to curb fire raging in oil tanker off Sri Lanka

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has expressed his gratitude to the Sri Lanka Navy, Sri Lanka Air Force, Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the Indian Defence Forces for their joint effort in curbing the fire raging in the crude oil tanker MT New Diamond.

In a Twitter message, the President appreciated their contribution in conserving oceanic biodiversity by preventing a disastrous situation out in the ocean.

The tanker MT New Diamond had been sailing 38 nautical miles off Sangamankanda Point east of Sri Lankan seas at around 8.30 am on Thursday (03), when the unfortunate turn of events unfolded.

Joint operation to control the fire engulfing the oil tanker, which was caused by an explosion of a boiler in the main engine room, was launched responding to a distress signal received by the Navy.

Initially, a group of emergency relief serving ships was promptly dispatched to the location for relief assistance.

According to the distress signal received by the Maritime Rescue Coordinating Center in Colombo, the oil tanker in eastern seas has been manned by 23 crew members including 05 Greek and 18 Philippine nationals and is registered under the Panamanian Flag (IMO-9191424). 

Thereby, 22 of the crew members aboard the oil tanker were rescued, however, the preliminary information from the ship’s crew confirmed that a Filipino seaman on board had died in a boiler explosion.

The tanker was transporting 270,000 metric tons of crude oil from the port of Mina Al Ahmadi in Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip when it faced with this unfortunate situation. It is also reported that 1,700 metric tons of diesel required for the use of the tanker have been stored onboard.

The disaster relief operation was joined by Indian Coast Guard Ship (ICGS) Sarang, ICGS Sujay, TTT One - a tug furnished with firefighting equipment and professional firefighters, and 02 Dornier aircraft of Indian Coast Guard since last night.

The fire has been contained by now and the Dornier aircraft are now at the Mattala Mahinda Rajapaksa International Airport.

In the meantime, SLNS Samudura, P4442 Fast Attack Craft and SLCG Samudraraksha and Samaraksha of Sri Lanka Coast Guard carrying the fire extinguishing chemicals provided by the government and private institutions in the event of this disaster, are also augmenting the disaster relief operation and providing necessary support.

As of now, 04 capital ships and 03 Fast Attack Craft of Sri Lanka Navy, 02 ships belonging to the Sri Lanka Coast Guard, 03 ships of Indian Coast Guard, 01 ship belonging to the Indian Navy, 02 tugs of Hambanthota International Port Group - Wasaba and Rawana, the ALP Winger tug, the TTT One tug with firefighting equipment and professionals are engaged in the firefighting efforts.

Meanwhile, the MI 17 helicopter and the Beach Craft of the Sri Lanka Air Force have resumed their aerial operations to assist this combined effort.