A large contingent of more than 300 Army personnel of the Quick Reaction Team, Drone Unit of the Artillery Regiment and the Bomb Disposal Squad on the directions of General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Army early this morning (May 27) were positioned along Negombo to Porutota coastal belt areas of about 6 km, in an attempt to prevent people from collecting debris and floating items of the ill-fated container ship, ‘X-press Pearl’ container ship, still on fire off Colombo Harbour.

As reports reaching Colombo and the Police confirmed that pockets of people along the north-western coastal belt are engaged in collecting toxic debris and floating items of the container ship, gutted by the chemical explosion on board, the Army HQ was requested to provide additional troops to help the Police for dispersal of those people who were reportedly collecting remnants which are chemically polluted, poisonous, and not fit for human consumption.

General Shavendra Silva accordingly directed the Commander, Security Forces-West Major General Vikum Liyanage to immediately deploy necessary troop contingencies along the coastal belt to help the Police to avert recurrence of movements of the general public while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in force, and explore possibilities of mitigating the coastal pollution impact and environmental hazards.

The Singaporean container ship carrying 25 tonnes of nitric acid from India to Singapore caught fire off north of Colombo Harbour on 25 May 2021, but all attempts to bring the blazing fire under control failed as explosions inside those cargo containers continued to flare up. However, ship crew members, two of them slightly injured, had to abandon the vessel and were subsequently evacuated by Sri Lankan emergency teams and troops.

Commander, Security Forces-West Major General Vikum Liyanage, Major General  Sujeewa Senarathyapa, General Officer Commanding 14 Division, Brigadier Lal Wijetunge Commander  141 Brigade, and Senior SFHQ West officers actively coordinated the contingency plan and personally attended to the task by Thursday (27) morning.