'S'pore bound container ship catches fire in Indian Ocean'

Colombo: A fire broke out on a container ship sailing toward Singapore in the Indian Ocean, the Sri Lankan Navy said on Friday, a week after a cargo ship carrying tonnes of chemicals sank near the country's main port here nearly a month after catching fire.

Navy spokesperson Indika de Silva said the Liberian-flagged MSC Messina ship had left the port of Colombo on June 22 heading for Singapore and it caught fire outside the island's international maritime borders.

He said the Navy was alerted to the ship's fire early hours of Friday and since the ship is still within Sri Lanka's search and rescue limits they were obliged to respond.

The fire was reported from the engine compartment of the vessel, which is currently located some 483 nautical miles away from Kirinda, the southern most tip of the island, the Navy spokesman said.

A merchant vessel in the proximity had been alerted to provide assistance and at this point it was unlikely that Sri Lanka Navy would be called upon to launch any rescue missions, the spokesperson said.

This is the second cargo carrier to catch fire around the Sri Lankan waters. The fire on board the Singapore-flagged 'X-Press Pearl' near to the port of Colombo in May caused the country's worst marine ecological disaster. The cargo carrier was carrying 1,486 containers of chemicals when it caught fire. The Sri Lankan Navy, Airforce and the Indian Coast Guard jointly doused the fire in an operation that took several days. But the cargo sank off the country's coast on June 17.

More than 60 dead Sea Turtles and other sea creatures, including Dolphins, suspected to have died in the aftermath of the ship disaster, have washed ashore along various beaches of the island.

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