Sri Lanka grants bail to captain of cargo ship MV X-Press Pearl embroiled in one of its worst environmental disasters

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The captain of a container ship that caught fire and partially sunk off the coast of Sri Lanka, causing one of the country’s worst environmental disasters, was arrested Monday before being granted bail, local police said.

Russian captain Vitaly Tyutkalo appeared before the Colombo High Court for violating the country’s Marine Pollutions Prevention Act, which prohibits unauthorized discharge of pollutants. He was not formally charged but is due back in court on July 1, according to police spokesperson Deputy Inspector General Ajith Rohana.

Bail was set at 2 million Sri Lankan rupees ($10,000), Rohana said.

The fire-ravaged ship, MV X-Press Pearl, began sinking on June 2, heightening fears of an oil and chemical spill that would threaten nearby lagoons, marine life and birds. The vessel was laden with chemicals such as nitric acid and carrying 350 metric tons of oil in its tanks.

The Singaporean-registered ship was sailing from India’s Gujarat to Colombo when a fire broke out onboard on May 20, as it was nine nautical miles off the Sri Lankan coast. For 12 days, the Sri Lanka Navy and Indian Coast Guard tried to douse the flames and stop the ship from breaking apart or sinking.

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