Iranian Oil Tanker Explodes in East China Sea as Dozens Remain Missing

Iranian Oil Tanker Explodes in East China Sea as Dozens Remain Missing

Iranian Oil Tanker Explodes in East China Sea as Dozens Remain Missing

One crewman's body has been recovered, while the others remain missing.

Rescue crews were forced to retreat on Wednesday after a blast on the ship.

The Panama-registered tanker, Sanchi, was carrying 136,000 tons - around 1 million barrels - of oil from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered CF Crystal freighter in the East China Sea on Saturday evening.

Chinese authorities had on Monday warned that the vessel could explode.

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China's ministry of transport said rescue vessels withdrew to a safe distance after the explosion on the Sanchi's bow, the latest setback in the multinational effort to extinguish the burning wreck and find more than 30 missing crewmembers.

Photos on the Chinese Ministry of Transportation's microblog showed thick black smoke pouring from the ship on Thursday morning.

Harsh weather conditions have reportedly hindered the rescue effort with strong winds, high waves and toxic gases stopping rescue boats from locating missing sailors.

The body of a crew member was found on Monday in the water near the tanker, the ministry said.

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The ship, which has been burning for nearly a week since it collided with another vessel on Saturday night, was about 300 kilometers (186 miles) northwest of Amami Oshima island as of Thursday afternoon, a coast guard spokesman said.

On Thursday the Iranian Merchant Mariners Syndicate, an industry NGO, said it had written to Chinese authorities expressing frustration at the lack of progress in putting out the fire.

"The problem is the ship's heavy bunker fuel", said Chauncey Naylor, a US -based director of emergency response and training at Tyco Corp's oil-fire specialists Williams Fire & Hazard Control, which is not involved in the clean-up.

Still, condensate is highly volatile when exposed to air and water and concerns were growing the tanker could explode and sink.

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The 21 Chinese crew membesr of the Crystal, which did not burst into flames, were all rescued.

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