Iran’s oil tanker burning off China coast, risks explosion amid search for missing crew


Officials and media reports say an Iranian tanker, which is still burning after a collision off China’s coast, faces the risk of exploding and sinking, as the search continues for its missing crew members, mostly Iranians.

The Sanchi tanker run by Iran’s top oil shipping operator burst into flames on Saturday evening after colliding with the CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles off China’s coast near Shanghai and at the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.

The South Korean Coast Guard and China’s state broadcaster CCTV said the tanker was still ablaze on Monday morning.

According to China’s Transportation Ministry, the burning vessel is “in danger of exploding or sinking.”

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.

So far, the body of only one of the 32 missing crew members — 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis — has been recovered.

Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, has been quoted by Iranian media as saying that the body has been sent to Shanghai for identification.

‘No evidence Iranian tanker crew dead’

The Iranian consul general in Shanghai says there is no evidence that 32 crew members on board an Iranian tanker are dead.

Chinese state media reported on Monday that vessels from three countries — China, South Korea and the US — were searching for the remaining crew members.

Chinese authorities dispatched three ships to clean the oil spill caused by the accident, the scale of which is not known.

All 21 Chinese crew members of Crystal, which was carrying grain from the United States to China, were rescued, the ministry said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the collision.

Last year, another oil tanker owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co. collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships, but causing no injuries or oil spill.

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