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Tanker With 2 Million Barrels Oil Catches Fire Off Sri Lanka

Debjit Chakraborty, Anusha Ondaatjie and Dhwani Pandya

(Bloomberg) --

An oil tanker loaded with two million barrels of Kuwaiti crude was towed further away from the Sri Lankan coast on Saturday, as rescuers continue to fight a fire that started Thursday morning.

The blaze has been reduced, and so far, no oil slick has been reported, the Indian Coast Guard said in a Twitter post on Saturday morning. The tanker was sailing toward India’s Paradip refinery.

The fire in the engine room of New Diamond, a very large crude carrier, was caused by an explosion, according to Sri Lanka Navy spokesman Indika de Silva. It later spread to other parts of the vessel. A crack of about 2 meters was seen 10 meters above the waterline in the rear of the tanker’s port side, the Indian Coast Guard said in a Twitter post on Friday.

The Sri Lanka Navy said on Saturday that it had deployed eight naval and coast guard vessels, as well as a helicopter for firefighting operations, while the Indian Coast Guard and navy sent four ships and two aircraft. Several tugs, including from the Sri Lankan port of Hambanthota are also assisting the effort. The fire hasn’t reached the cargo area, de Silva said on Friday.

While, there have been no reports of large-scale oil leakage, Sri Lankan authorities are deploying equipment to prevent pollution. The area is south of a belt well known for whale sightings, and any oil spill could threaten marine life in the region.

New Diamond was about 65 kilometers (40 miles) off the east coast of Sri Lanka when it caught fire, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The cargo was loaded at Mina al Ahmadi on Aug. 23 and scheduled to arrive at Paradip on Sept. 5.

As a result of Saturday’s fresh towing efforts, the tanker was over 35 nautical miles away from the Sri Lankan coast, according to the Indian Coast Guard Twitter post at about 8 a.m India time.

All but one of the 23 New Diamond crew, from Greece and the Philippines, have been rescued, while one person is missing, presumed dead, de Silva said.

READ: A Small Spill on a Remote Island Is Bad News for Oil: Julian Lee

The vessel was chartered by Indian Oil Corp., a spokesman for India’s biggest state refiner said. Indian Oil operates a 15-million-ton-a-year oil refinery at Paradip in India’s eastern state of Odisha.

(Updates with latest developments from first paragraph)

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