Colombo asks for international help for the X-Press Pearl disaster
by Melanie Manel Perera

Minister of Justice: we need an estimate of the damage caused by the ship's fire at sea. More than a month after the accident, still damage to marine flora and fauna. Serious problems for local fishermen.


Colombo (AsiaNews) - Minister of Justice Ali Sabry has asked for the help of international experts to estimate the compensation for the damage caused by the fire of the MV X-Press Pearl ship.

On May 20, the cargo ship caught fire off the Sri Lankan coast near the capital Colombo; the vessel was carrying nitric acid, sodium hydroxide and other hazardous chemicals.

Due to the accident, the marine ecosystem of the area has suffered enormous damage: a serious problem for local fishermen.

The head of the Sri Lankan Marine Environmental Protection Authority, Dharshani Lahandapura, called it the "worst environmental disaster in the history of the country".

The chemicals dispersed in the Indian Ocean have severely affected marine flora and fauna: On 30 June, more than a month after the accident, the carcasses of 20 dolphins, 4 whales and 176 turtles were found and dragged ashore.

So far the owners of the X-Press Pearl have agreed to pay compensation of 720 million rupees (more than 3 million euros) to fishermen affected by the environmental damage. It would be the first tranche - requested by the Attorney General - of a payment of 33.8 million euros which covers the period from May 20 to June 3.

On 29 June, Minister Sabry chaired a virtual meeting with representatives of international organizations in which he gave a detailed account of the actions taken by the local government to obtain compensation for damages and asked for the assistance of foreign experts to have a correct estimate. losses in environmental and economic terms.

The purpose of the videoconference was also to assess short, medium and long term damages. Sabry then explained that he is taking action to restore the living standards of the local fishing community. The need to establish - with international support - a marine disaster management centre that can deal with the restoration of the ecosystem was also stressed.