Explosion risk for oil tanker ablaze off China

The accident, involving the Iranian oil tanker colliding with a cargo ship last Saturday, could create an environmental disaster, said experts.
The accident, involving the Iranian oil tanker colliding with a cargo ship last Saturday, could create an environmental disaster, said experts.PHOTO: XINHUA

BEIJING • An Iranian oil tanker ablaze off China's east coast was at risk of exploding or sinking yesterday, as fears grew for 32 missing sailors amid warnings of a potential environmental disaster.

The huge fire was still raging yesterday morning around the stricken vessel, which was carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil, some 36 hours after it collided with a cargo ship. But China's English-language state broadcaster CGTN later posted a video on Twitter showing the fire seemingly under control as a second vessel sprayed it with water.

Earlier, the Transport Ministry said rescuers trying to locate the crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis were being beaten back by toxic clouds. The Panamanian-flagged tanker Sanchi is "in danger of exploding or sinking", it said.

Rescuers had recovered one unidentified body as of yesterday afternoon, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang. "Conditions... are not that favourable for search and rescue work," he said, adding that "we are also investigating how to prevent any secondary disaster".

Mr Alireza Irvash, from Iran's consulate in Shanghai, told Iranian state broadcaster IRIB the body "cannot be easily identified" even though the victim had a fire safety vest on.

The accident happened last Saturday evening, 160 nautical miles east of the city. The tanker, operated by Iran's Glory Shipping, was heading for South Korea when it collided with a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, the CF Crystal.

As the Chinese authorities raced to contain the ship's leaking oil, experts expressed fears the accident could create an environmental disaster. If all of the Sanchi's cargo spills, it would be the biggest oil slick from a ship for decades.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2018, with the headline 'Explosion risk for oil tanker ablaze off China'. Print Edition | Subscribe