BEIJING/TEHERAN (REUTERS, AFP) – A burning Iranian oil tanker that had drifted into Japan’s exclusive economic zone has sunk after a collision on Jan 6, Chinese state television said on Sunday (Jan 14).
The stricken tanker, called the Sanchi, which had been adrift and on fire for more than a week following the accident with another vessel in the East China Sea, had “suddenly ignited” at around noon (0400 GMT), China Central Television said.
The Sanchi, carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil from Iran, has been in flames since colliding with the CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter, 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai on Jan 6.
The 21 Chinese crew members of the Crystal, which did not burst into flames, were all rescued.
It remains unclear if there has been a significant oil leak into the sea.
Mr Mohammad Rastad, spokesman for the Iranian rescue team dispatched to Shanghai, told Iran's state broadcaster on Sunday information from members of the Crystal crew suggested all the personnel on the Sanchi were killed in the first hour of the accident "due to the explosion and the release of gas".
"Despite our efforts, it has not been possible to extinguish the fire and recover the bodies due to repeated explosions and gas leaks," he said.
Chinese rescuers on Saturday (Jan 13) recovered two bodies and the “black box” from the tanker, which had a crew of 32 – 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.
With the latest find a total of three bodies have been recovered. The remaining sailors are still missing.
Operated by Iran’s National Iranian Tanker Company, the Panamanian-flagged ship was transporting light crude condensate to South Korea.