NBC News- A cargo ship laden with chemicals sank on Wednesday after nearly two weeks ablaze off the west coast of Sri Lanka, worsening fears of a major environmental disaster.
The vessel has already left the country’s coastline covered in tons of plastic pellets and now threatened to spill oil into its rich fishing waters.
The government has banned fishing, a crucial economic industry, along about 50 miles of coast in the wake of the incident. Authorities have also deployed hundreds of soldiers to clean affected beaches and warned residents not to touch the debris because it could be contaminated with harmful chemicals.
Pamunugama beach, north of the capital Colombo, sits nearly directly opposite where the Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl has been anchored since a fire erupted onboard on May 20.
Since then millions of bead-like bits of plastic washed up from the fire-ravaged ship and turned the once vibrant, tropical shore into a scene from one of Sri Lanka's worst-ever marine disasters.
Marine biologist Dr. Asha de Vos, 41, said that when she stepped onto the beach on Wednesday, it hit her like a brick wall.
Where there was once gold sand and coconut trees, she told NBC News, there was now a sea of plastic waste.
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