Nearly a hundred carcasses of turtles with throat and shell damage, as well as a dozen dead dolphins and a blue whale, have washed ashore in Sri Lanka since a container ship burned and sank, raising fears of a severe marine disaster. Ecologists believe the deaths were directly caused by the fire and release of hazardous chemicals while the Singapore-flagged X-Press Pearl burned for 12 days and sank last week off Sri Lanka's main port in the capital Colombo, reports the AP. Government officials, however, said these causes were "provisionally" confirmed and the investigation was continuing. Post-mortem analysis on the carcasses is reportedly being performed at five government-run laboratories. The fire started on the ship on May 20 and dead marine species started washing ashore days later.
A ship manifest seen by the AP said 81 of the ship's nearly 1,500 containers held "dangerous" goods. The Sri Lankan navy believes the blaze was caused by its chemical cargo, most of which was destroyed in the fire. But debris including burned fiberglass and tons of plastic pellets have severely polluted the surrounding waters and a long stretch of the island nation’s famed beaches, where five species of turtles regularly come to lay eggs. Lalith Ekanayake, a marine and coastal ecologist, suspects "at least 400 turtles may have died." Thushan Kapurusinghe of the Turtle Conservation Project said those that washed ashore had oral, cloacal, and throat bleeding and "specific parts of their carapace have burns and erosion signs." Sri Lanka plans to claim compensation from X-Press Feeders, the ship's owner, and already has submitted an interim claim of $40 million.
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