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Cargo ship fire runs its course

Calcutta: The fire inside the abandoned cargo ship MV SSL Kolkata has died out on its own, a salvage team comprising experts from various countries confirmed after the first thorough inspection of the vessel.

The ship with 464 containers carrying 211 tonnes of oil had caught fire on the evening of June 13 and remains adrift near the Sunderbans coast.

Members of the salvage team hired by the company that owns the ship carried out a comprehensive inspection of the engine room, accommodation units and cargo hold on Friday and did not find flames anywhere.

Wisps of smoke continue to rise from the smouldering portions, though. The Coast Guard, which had rescued the 22-member crew after the fire started, is keeping a round-the-clock vigil on the vessel to report any new danger.

Officials involved in the operation said there was a fear of hazardous chemicals and fuel spilling from the ship into the sea had the fire continued to rage.

Structural damage might have resulted in the ship breaking, in which case the mangroves of the Sunderbans would have been in serious danger.

The fire dying out has considerably reduced that threat, the officials said.

"After an inspection, the salvage team has confirmed to us that there is no fire now. They used thermal imaging cameras in the operation," inspector-general Kuldeep Singh Sheoran, the commander (northeast) of the Coast Guard, told Metro.

SMIT Salvage is a global company that specialises in emergency response to shipping disasters.

The next challenge for the team deployed to salvage whatever remains of MV SSL Kolkata is to transfer oil from the vessel to another one.

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