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Sri Lankan Navy, Indian ships battling fire on board oil tanker, one crew dead

The Sri Lankan Navy with assistance from Indian ships was battling for a second day on Friday to douse a major fire raging on an oil tanker carrying crude from Kuwait to India that left one of its 23 crew members dead.

The Sri Lankan Navy on Friday confirmed that a Filipino sailor died in a boiler explosion in the engine room of the Panama registered tanker MT New Diamond that caught fire on Thursday.

The Navy said that 22 of the 23 member crew had been safely rescued off the tanker.

The tanker was carrying 270,000 metric tonnes of crude oil from Kuwait to India when its engine room caught fire off the coast of Sangamankanda in the eastern district of Ampara.

The Navy said that so far the 270,000 metric tonnes of crude oil it was carrying had not been affected by the fire.

“Steps are currently being taken to stop the spread of fire to the cargo,” it said in a statement. The Sri Lankan Navy is also taking steps to ensure that there will be no seepage of oil to the sea from the tanker.

The distressed vessel is in the waters 23 nautical miles off the eastern coast where the sea depth is measured at 3100 meters.

The operation to douse the fire resumed early this morning under the supervision of the Greek national captain of the tanker.

The Indian Naval Frigate INS Sahyadri joined the operations by 0200 hours on Friday.

The Navy said two more Indian Coast guard vessels are to join the rescue operations.

The Indian Coast Guard on Thursday said that it pressed into action three of its ships and a Dornier aircraft after the Sri Lankan Navy sought assistance to control the fire onboard the oil tanker.

In a swift sea and air coordinated Search and Rescue (SAR) operation, the Coast Guard said it immediately diverted ICG Ships Shaurya, Sarang and Samudra Paheredar, besides a Dornier aircraft for the firefight on the oil tanker.

The Sri Lankan Navy said that the two Russian vessels which were docked at the Hambantota port since August 31 and dispatched to the area to join the rescue operations departed Sri Lankan waters this morning.

On Thursday night, MV Helen, a vessel sailing in the area, rescued 3 Greeks and 16 Filipino crew members from the distressed vessel.

The Navy spokesman said that at least four ships had been dispatched to carry out the rescue operation.

The naval ships were dispatched from the eastern port of Trincomalee and the southern port of Hambantota.