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Author : nazrinsiregar
Publish Date : 2021-06-02 19:15:33

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Sri Lanka: Burning ship coats beaches in oil and debris
Published5 days ago
Sri Lankan navy members remove debris washed off to a beach from the MV X-Press Pearl container ship which caught fire off the Colombo Harbour, on a beach in Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka 27 May 2021.
image captionMembers of the Sri Lankan navy have been removing debris from the beaches
Oil and debris from a container ship on fire off the coast of Sri Lanka have coated beaches on its west coast.

Images of the beach in Negombo, a popular tourist destination, have generated outrage in the country.

The Singapore-registered X-Press Pearl was carrying chemicals and cosmetics, and has been on fire for eight days.

The Sri Lankan navy is working with the Indian navy and salvage experts to try and put it out, amid fears of a major environmental disaster.

If the ship sinks, then hundreds of tonnes of oil could leak into the sea having an adverse impact on marine life.

Rough seas and monsoonal winds are hampering the operation, officials have said.

Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman Daya Rathnayake told BBC Sinhala's Ranga Sirilal that the fire had been contained, but they could not get on board the vessel because it was still too hot.

The navy wants to tow the ship into deeper waters, but Mr Rathnayake said that experts first had to assess its structure to see if that would be possible.

Sri Lankan navy members remove debris washed off to a beach from the MV X-Press Pearl container ship which caught fire off the Colombo Harbour, on a beach in Ja-Ela, Sri Lanka 27 May 2021.

image captionLarge parts of the beaches near Negombo were covered in debris
Apart from being a tourist destination, the main occupation for many in Negombo is fishing, which means a larger oil spill would be a double blow to the town.

Fishing has been banned for now.

The plastic pellet problem
Although there is already oil coating the beaches, the bigger problem at the moment is debris, mostly comprising tiny plastic pellets. It has now spread to other towns along Sri Lanka's western coastline.

Environmentalist Prof Jagath Gunawarnadena told BBC Sinhala that the danger of these pellets was that they float and eventually break up in the sea, which meant that they would release a lot of microplastic fragments that would be detrimental to marine life.

Residents collect debris washed ashore from the Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl,

image captionResidents collect debris washed ashore from the Singapore-registered container ship MV X-Press Pearl,
The chairman of Sri Lanka's Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA) Dharshani Lahandapura told the AFP news agency that the crew had known of a nitric acid leak aboard the vessel even before it entered Sri Lankan waters, and the fire could have been avoided if they acted promptly.

Officials have lodged a police complaint against the captain of the ship, who was rescued along with other crew members on Tuesday.

X-Press Shipping - the Singapore based company which owns the vessel - confirmed the crew was aware of the leak, but say they were denied permission by both Qatar and India to leave the ship there before the fire broke out.

News that Sri Lanka allowed the vessel to enter the country's waters after it was rejected by two other nations has led to anger on social media.

Allowed foreigners to come in from #COVID19 infected countries & the entire country suffers !
Allowed a ship that was refused by 2 countries to come in and now a massive ecological destruction has happened ! #lka #SriLanka

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Soldiers have begun clean-up operations on the beaches but if the ship sinks, it will be a much more complex task.

"Our best option is to clean the beach and we suspect any clearing operation will take a few weeks, if not months," Ms Lahandapura was quoted as saying.

She also told local media that officials would begin testing air and water quality amid concerns that the fumes from the ship could have adverse health effects on residents.
Israeli opposition leaders say they are close to forming a new government that would end Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year stretch as prime minister.

The head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid, has until midnight (21:00 GMT) to form a coalition.

However, he has yet to reach a final agreement with Naftali Bennett's right-wing nationalist Yamina party.

Mr Bennett is expected to become the prime minister ahead of Mr Lapid under a rotation arrangement.

Mr Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party have been appealing to any wavering right-wing politicians not to join the coalition, knowing that a new government would still face a vote of confidence in parliament before it could be sworn in.

If it fails to win the support of a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, there is a risk of the country having to go to elections for the fifth time in two years.

Who is Naftali Bennett, Israel's likely PM?
Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu: Commando turned PM
Party leaders from across the political spectrum worked throughout the night to finalise deals to form what is being described as a "government of change".

Israeli media reports suggested that they had decided on how to divide up most ministries and were focused on key committee positions.

They were unable to make an announcement before members of the Knesset met to elect the country's next president.

The winner, Isaac Herzog, is a former Labour party leader who currently heads the Jewish Agency, the main organisation enabling Jewish immigration to Israel. He defeated the Israel Prize-winning educator Miriam Peretz.

Benjamin Netanyahu attends a parliamentary session in Jerusalem (2 June 2021)

image captionBenjamin Netanyahu has urged right-wing politicians not to join "a left-wing government"
In order to build a coalition with a parliamentary majority Mr Lapid, a 57-year-old former TV news anchor, must sign individual agreements with seven parties.

Yesh Atid and the centrist Blue and White party of Defence Minster Benny Gantz said they had agreed overnight "on the outlines of the government and core issues relating to the strengthening of democracy and Israeli society".

Mr Gantz, whose national unity government with Mr Netanyahu collapsed in December after only seven months, would remain as defence minister in the new cabinet, they added.

Yes Atid has also reached deals with the left-wing Meretz and centre-left Labour parties, as well as the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party of Avigdor Lieberman.

The outstanding three are Mr Bennett's Yamina party, the New Hope party of Mr Netanyahu's former ally Gideon Saar, and the Arab Islamist Raam party.

"The coalition negotiation team sat all night and made progress toward creating a unity government," a spokesman for Mr Bennett said on Wednesday morning.

Raam's leader, Mansour Abbas, told reporters on Tuesday that the negotiations appeared to be heading "in a good direction", but added: "Until it's finished, nothing is finished."

Some right-wing MPs object to a partnership with politicians from Israel's Arab minority, which makes up about 20% of the population.

There are also Arab MPs who are reluctant to back a government led by Mr Bennett, 49, a former defence minister who is a staunch supporter of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank - land the Palestinians want for a future state.

media captionNaftali Bennett and Benjamin Netanyahu traded barbs during their televised appearances on Sunday
The eight parties have little in common politically apart from their plan to replace Mr Netanyahu. They say he should not remain in office while standing trial on corruption charges, which he denies.

On Sunday, Mr Netanyahu urged right-wing politicians not to join what he called "a left-wing government" that would be "a danger to Israel's security and future".

Mr Bennett had earlier accused him of "seeking to take the whole national camp, and the whole country, with him on his personal last stand".

"Four rounds of elections and [the past] two months proved to us all that there simply is not a right-wing government to be led by Netanyahu. It's either a fifth election or a unity government," he said.

The 71-year-old prime minister was given the first chance to form a government after his Likud party won the most seats in March's inconclusive general election. However, he was unable to do so before his mandate expired.

If Mr Lapid does not make Wednesday night's deadline, the Knesset will have three weeks to agree on a prime ministerial candidate. Otherwise, another general election will be held, continuing a long period of political stalemate.
Malaysia says it is to summon China's ambassador after 16 Chinese military aircraft flew over disputed waters off its eastern state of Sarawak.

Fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the transport planes on Monday after detecting "suspicious" activity over the South China Sea.

Malaysia's foreign ministry described the manoeuvre as a "serious threat to national sovereignty".

China, however, said its aircraft had abided by international law.

Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan and Vietnam all contest China's claim to almost all of the South China Sea. The row has rumbled on for decades but tensions have increased in recent years.

Beijing continues to claim an area known as the "nine-dash line" and has backed its claim with island-building and patrols, expanding its military presence while maintaining that its intentions are peaceful.

media captionWhy is everyone fighting over the South China Sea?
According to the Malaysian air force, the Chinese aircraft were "flying in tactical formation" at up to 27,000 ft (8.2km) and came within 60 nautical miles (110km) of Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the island of Borneo. Attempts to contact them went unheeded, a statement said.

Malaysian fighter jets were then scrambled from the Labuan Air Base to carry out "visual identification".

Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the planes had entered the country's "maritime zone" and that a complaint would be lodged with Beijing.

He said the Chinese ambassador was being summoned to explain the "breach of the Malaysian airspace and sovereignty".

"Malaysia's stand is clear - having friendly diplomatic relations with any countries does not mean that we will compromise on our national security," he said in a statement.

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A statement from the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur played down the incident, saying Chinese military aircraft enjoyed "the freedom of overflight in the relevant airspace".

"During this training, the Chinese military aircraft strictly abided by the relevant international law and did not enter the territorial airspace of any other country," a spokesman said.

"China and Malaysia are friendly neig

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