A sailor is taking part in the fire drill on the Chinese patrol vessel
A sailor is taking part in the fire drill on the Chinese patrol vessel "Haixun 01" on April 8, 2016 in the South China Sea. [Photo/Xinhua]

At least one crew member has been presumed dead as an oil tanker carrying 2.7 million metric tonnes of crude oil continued to be on fire for over 24 hours in the seas off Sri Lanka’s eastern coast, the navy said here Friday.

The MT New Diamond was heading to the Paradip Port in India carrying crude oil from Kuwait when a fire broke out on Thursday morning while it was in Sri Lanka’s eastern seas.

Navy Spokesman Indika de Silva told Xinhua that one crew member who was inside the engine room where the fire erupted was presumed dead while another who sustained critical injuries had been rescued and transferred to the Kalmunai hospital in the country’s east.

The remaining 22 crew members including the captain and engineer of the vessel had been rescued by the navy.

Indika said that as of Friday noon, the navy was trying to tow the ship into deep seas, away from Sri Lankan waters and they were attempting to douse the flames.

Two Russian vessels who had joined the Sri Lanka navy in the rescue efforts on Thursday had withdrawn by Friday morning but presently two Indian naval ships and six tugs were assisting the navy.

“Some of these tugs were sent from the Hambantota Port and they are assisting us. Altogether there are eight ships on scene and we have alerted the other countries in the region for assistance. We are trying our best to prevent the fire from reaching the cargo area,” the spokesman said.

Till Friday noon, there was no threat of an oil spillage as the navy raced against time to douse the fire, but environmentalists have warned that if there is a leak it would have disastrous consequences.

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