Sri Lanka seeks India's help to contain merchant vessel fire. Image Source: IANS News

Colombo, June 1 : Sri Lanka's Criminal Investigations Department announced that it had appointed a 10-member team of detectives to investigate the incidents surrounding the burning X-Press Pearl container ship in the waters off the Colombo Harbour, the local media reported.

The Department's announcement on Monday came after the Director-General of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) filed a complaint with the Harbour Police on May 23 over the environmental destruction caused by the fire onboard the Singapore-flagged vessel, Xinhua news agency reported.

The police said the officers from the Criminal Investigations Department recorded statements from the captain and chief engineer of the vessel at a hotel in Colombo where the crew is undergoing quarantine.

Statements will be recorded from the other crew members in the near future, the police said.

The X Press Pearl ship was carrying 1,486 containers with 25 tonnes of nitric acid and several other chemicals and cosmetics from the port of Hazira, India, on May 15.

The vessel sent out a distress call while being close to the Colombo Port on May 20, and soon caught fire resulting in the Sri Lankan Navy dispatching vessels to bring the fire under control.

Last week, the MEPA said a major environmental disaster was expected following the burning of the vessel and the impact was being assessed.

General Manager of the MEPA, Terney Pradeep said the coast line from the south along the west coast had debris washed ashore and the public had been strongly advised not to touch any of the debris as it could contain hazardous material.

The government said a large amount of marine life had been killed as a result of the pollution from the ship.

The government has decided to pay a certain amount of compensation for the fishing community who had to suspend activities incurring losses of their daily income and those who are involved in related industries.

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