Oil tanker burning off China’s coast at risk of exploding
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An Iranian oil tanker that caught fire after colliding with a freighter off China’s east coast is at risk of exploding and sinking, Chinese state media reported on Monday as authorities from three countries struggled to find 32 missing crew members and contain oil spewing from the blazing wreck.
State broadcaster China Central Television, citing Chinese officials, said none of the 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis who have been missing since the collision on Saturday have been found as of 8 a.m. on Monday. Meanwhile, search and cleanup efforts have been hampered by fierce fires and poisonous gases that have completely consumed the tanker and surrounding waters, CCTV reported.
The Panama-registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal in the East China Sea, 257 km off the coast of Shanghai, China’s Ministry of Transport said.
China, South Korea and the U.S. have sent ships and planes to search for Sanchi’s crew, all of whom remain missing. The U.S. Navy, which sent a P-8A aircraft from Okinawa, Japan, to aid the search, said late Sunday that none of the missing crew had been found.
All 21 crew members of the Crystal, which was carrying grain from the United States to China, were rescued, the Chinese Ministry said. The Crystal’s crew members were all Chinese nationals.
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the collision.
Chinese authorities dispatched three ships to clean the oil spill. The size of the oil slick caused by the accident is not known.
The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 metric tons of condensate, a type of ultra-light oil, according to Chinese authorities.
By comparison, the Exxon Valdez was carrying 1.26 million barrels of crude oil when it spilled 260,000 barrels into Prince William Sound off Alaska in 1989.
An official in Iran’s Oil Ministry, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to reporters, said 30 of the tanker’s 32 crew members were Iranians.
“We have no information on their fate,” he said on Sunday. “We cannot say all of them have died, because rescue teams are there and providing services.”
The official said the tanker was owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co. and had been rented by a South Korean company, Hanwha Total Co. He said the tanker was on its way to South Korea.
It’s the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year-and-a-half. In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.