ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka police have arrested eight people who allegedly collected salvageable cargo items that had washed ashore from the burning MV X-Press Pearl container vessel.
Police spokesman Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Ajith Raohana said in a statement on May 27 that the arrested individuals had been collecting the items in the Negombo coastal area.
The suspects had defied Sri Lanka’s ongoing curfew-style movement restrictions to collect the fallen cargo, said Rohana, adding that Pamunugamuwa, Dungalpitiya, Negombo and Kochchikade police stations had conducted a special operation to apprehend them.
The spokesman said the suspects were also posing a threat to others by collecting these items which experts had said could be hazardous materials.
Police have also taken into custody a lorry that was transporting the goods, he said, though he did not elaborate on the contents.
The suspects will be presented before the magistrate courts in the relevant areas on May 27, he added.
On May 26, environmental activists were seen carting away plastic items that had washed ashore before they had a chance to pollute the environment.
Debris from X-Press Pearl was washing up along Sri Lanka’s beach stretches from Uswetakeiyawa and Negombo shortly before dawn on May 26.
Television reports showed locals with wheelbarrows scurrying to the site where debris had washed ashore.
News footage on Sri Lanka’s Derana television showed intact sacks of Lotrene branded plastic granules being carted away before they broke up, saving an expensive clean-up operation for authorities.
Some however had already broken up, after hitting the shore.
Virgin plastic pellets are worth about 1000 to 1200 US dollars a tonne or about a dollar a kilogram free on board.
With no police officers in sight, others were seen salvaging what appeared to be rolls of plastic sheets,
Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority has said they are readying dispersal chemical and booms to catch any oil leaks from the blazing vessel.
Sri Lanka is at the front end of recycling plastic bottles and turning them into exportable high-end fabric and other products.
Beach clean-ups organized by Sri Lankan firms have collected not only plastic from the country but other Indian ocean rim nations as well.
On May 25, containers stacked high on the deck of blazing X-Press Pearl toppled to the sea as burning bozes at the bottom buckled and the vessel developed a list to starboard.
By daylight on May 26, the vessel was seen almost completely engulfed in flames and thick black smoke, photographs released by Sri Lanka Air Force showed.
Charred debris was also starting to wash ashore. Officials have warned that burnt chemicals flowing in with sea water as well as air could be poisonous.
Firefighting tugs were seen spraying water to the burning hulk from a safe distance. (Colombo/May27/2021)