Firefighters are once again battling flames aboard a fully loaded oil supertanker off Sri Lanka, the island’s nation’s navy said Monday, four days after the fire first broke out on the Panama-flagged New Diamond.
"Fresh flames have risen in the funnel section of the MT New Diamond Supertanker and firefighters are battling the fire using foam to contain the blaze," said the Navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva, adding that the fire had not reached the oil cargo of around 2 million barrels.
The country's navy said the blaze was doused Sunday, after burning for three days, as a team of experts moved to salvage the vessel.
Four tugboats, three Sri Lankan navy ships and six Indian ships had battled the fire on the MT New Diamond since Thursday. Five Sri Lankan coast guard ships and gunboats also took part in the effort.
"As of now, the fire has been completely extinguished," the navy chief, Vice Adm. Nishantha Ulugetenne, said Sunday in comments that were broadcast on local TV channels. But he cautioned that there was a risk of another fire erupting due to the heat of the ship's iron plates.
The fire killed one crew member and injured another. Both are Filipino. The injured third engineer was hospitalized in stable condition.
The fire began in an engine room boiler but did not spread to the tanker’s oil storage area and no leak has been reported, the navy said Thursday. Sri Lankan officials have warned of possible massive environmental damage to Sri Lanka if the ship leaks or explodes.
The head of Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority, Darshani Lahandapur, had said the Indian Ocean island nation does not have the resources or capacity to combat such a massive disaster and appealed for help from regional countries. She said her organization plans to take legal action over the fire.
The tanker had 23 crew members – 18 Filipinos and five Greeks. Twenty-one crew members left the tanker uninjured as the fire burned. 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.