COLOMBO, SRI LANKA — Sri Lanka's beautiful beaches are being swamped by billions of plastic pellets and toxins as the country deals with a massive and growing environmental disaster.
The disaster started when a fire erupted on a container ship after it anchored near the port of Colombo.
The ship's owners had been aware of an acid leak on the ship for weeks, but say they could not fix the problem because Qatar and India would not allow the ship to dock there.
Here are the details: The BBC reports that Sri Lanka is dealing with a growing environmental disaster as billions of plastic pellets, oil and dangerous chemicals from a sinking ship smother its coastline.
The container ship, X-Press Pearl, left the Indian port of Hazira on 15 May, heading for Colombo.
The ship had earlier sprung a leak of highly corrosive nitric acid, but its owners claim they had been denied permission by both Qatar and India to dock the ship.
While it was anchored off Sri Lanka's Colombo harbor, a fire broke out on 20 May.
Sri Lankan officials believe the fire was caused by the leaking acid.
The ship then burned out of control for two weeks before settling in the shallow waters of the harbor.
In that time, hundreds of shipping containers fell into the sea, releasing toxins and billions of plastic pellets into the ocean.
The plastic pellets have already covered miles of Sri Lanka's famously beautiful beaches.
Experts say the pellets still in the sea could travel as far as India, Indonesia and Somalia.
Local fishermen were told to stay out of the ocean, but the fishermen say they need to fish to survive and will need to be compensated by the government.
Sri Lanka has launched a criminal investigation into the disaster and says it will seek compensation.