Firefighting resumes, search efforts continue in Sanchi tanker blaze

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"The tanker is moving from the site of the accident, which was about 155 miles from Shanghai port, to Japanese waters and right now is about 135 miles from Okinawa Island", he said. The Crystal's crew members were all Chinese nationals.

An official in Iran's Oil Ministry, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said the tanker was owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co. and confirmed that 30 of the tanker's 32 crew members were Iranians.

"Vessels at the scene have to stop putting out the fire and withdraw back to (a safe distance)", Chinas Ministry of Transport said.

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Efforts to extinguish a fire and rescue survivors on a stricken oil tanker have been hampered because the vessel keeps exploding.

The ministry said that thirteen search-and-rescue vessels are continuing to look for missing crew members within 900 square nautical miles of the tanker.

Images aired on China's state broadcaster CCTV showed the 900-foot-long Sanchi ablaze as cleanup crews sprayed it with water; a massive plume of black smoke rose into the sky.

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The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tons of Iranian oil condensate, a light, colorless fossil fuel, from Iran to South Korea; the CF Crystal was carrying US grain to southern China. That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels, worth about $60 million, based on global crude oil prices. Condensate is highly toxic and even more combustible than regular crude oil. In March 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Alaska's Prince William Sound, spilling 10.8 million gallons of crude oil, devastating herring and salmon runs and causing one of the worst environmental disasters in USA history.

After meeting with a special investigatory committee formed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, its spokesman, Mohammad Rastad, said that poisonous gas, Wednesday's explosion and oil pollution were complicating the response.

This is unedited, unformatted feed from the Press Trust of India wire.

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