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Tanker fire off Sri Lanka now under control, says navy

The fire on a large oil tanker off Sri Lanka’s coast has now been brought under control and an oil spill is unlikely, the country’s navy said Saturday.

Sri Lankan officials have warned massive environmental damage is possible if the ship leaks or explodes.

Four tug boats, three Sri Lankan navy ships and four Indian ships have been battling the fire on the MT New Diamond tanker since Thursday.

The vessel, carrying about 270,000 barrels of crude oil, was drifting about 37 km from Sri Lanka’s eastern coast and on Friday evening a tug boat towed it to the deep sea away from land, said navy spokesman Capt. Indika de Silva.

The fire killed one Filipino crew member and injured another.

A third engineer who was injured has been hospitalised but is in a stable condition.

The head of Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority, Darshani Lahandapur, said the country does not have the resources or capacity to combat such a massive disaster and had appealed for help from its surrounding nations.

She said her organisation plans to take legal action over the fire.

The fire began in an engine room boiler but had not spread to the tanker’s oil storage area and no leak has been reported, the navy said.

The tanker’s crew consisted of 18 Filipinos and five Greeks.

It 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.

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