Fresh fire hits stricken oil supertanker off Sri Lanka

An engine room explosion last week had killed a Filipino crew member and caused a fire.
An engine room explosion last week had killed a Filipino crew member and caused a fire.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

COLOMBO (AFP) - A massive fire that crippled an oil tanker off Sri Lanka has reignited in strong winds, the island nation's navy said on Monday (Sept 7), just a day after the blaze was extinguished.

The Panamanian-registered New Diamond, carrying over 270,000 tonnes of crude and diesel, was en-route from Kuwait to the Indian port of Paradip last Thursday when it issued a distress call after an engine room explosion that killed a Filipino crew member.

The ensuing fire was put out on Sunday through the combined efforts of Sri Lanka's navy and air force, the Indian navy and coastguard, as well as private operators.

Firefighters continued to douse the tanker with water and dry chemicals, but the squally conditions - where winds were blowing at up to 70kmh - led to a fresh flare-up.

"Due to high winds... the fire which has already been doused, has re-ignited from the effects of extreme temperature and sparks onboard," the navy said in a statement.

Sri Lanka navy spokesman Captain Indika de Silva told AFP that the blaze was at a "serious level, but we hope we will be able to contain it".

The tanker was earlier pulled away from the country's coast, but the high winds moved it some 18km closer to the shore, officials said.

Powerful tug boats were now secured to the large ship to prevent it from moving closer, they added.

The navy said the cargo has not been affected by the recurrence of the fire.

 
 

The vessel had suffered a crack of its hull some 10m above the waterline as a result of intense heat from the first fire, officials said.

But the authorities had said there was no oil slick and the crack was not considered a catastrophic structural failure.

Sri Lanka's Marine Environment Protection Agency has said that legal action could be taken against the owners, Liberian-registered Porto Emporios Shipping Inc, "should the worst happen and the ship breaks up".