An Iranian oil tanker has sunk after burning for more than a week following a collision on Jan. 6 in the East China Sea, Chinese state media said on Sunday, adding that large amounts of oil are burning in the surrounding waters.
The stricken tanker, called the Sanchi, which had been adrift and on fire following the accident with the freighter CF Crystal, had suddenly ignited around noon, China Central Television said, Reuters reported.
“Currently it has already sunk,” CCTV said, citing the Shanghai maritime search and rescue centre. It showed video of a tower of billowing black smoke and flames on the surface of the water. The ship sank before 5 p.m., CCTV said.
China’s State Oceanic Administration said that because the hull of the ship had detonated, a large amount of oil in surrounding waters was on fire, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
The tanker, owned by National Iranian Tanker Company, was carrying almost 1 million barrels of condensate, an ultra-light crude oil, to South Korea.
It collided with the CF Crystal, which was carrying grain from the United States, about 184 kilometers off China’s coast near Shanghai. The administration said it would expand the scope of its monitoring and “quickly ascertain the spread and drift of overflowing oil” from the wrecked ship.
A Chinese salvage team on Saturday recovered two bodies from the tanker. Another body, presumed to be one of the Sanchi’s sailors, was found on Monday and brought to Shanghai for identification. The Sanchi’s crew consisted of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had told his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif by telephone that “as long as there is 1% of hope, China will continue to make 100% effort” to rescue and recover other members of the crew.
Iranian officials had blamed China for not doing enough to douse the blaze on the ground that Beijing preferred the ship’s condensate to burn off to avoid any potential environmental impact of the oil spill in its waters.
A reporter with China’s state television CCTV on board a plane from the State Oceanic Administration reported seeing wreckage from the Sanchi and oil on fire, and spilt fuel covering a 10 sq km area.
Chinese officials have played down fears of a major environmental disaster.
Before the tanker’s eventual collapse, CCTV quoted He Wang, an expert from Chinese oil company Huade Petrochemical, as saying that rescue efforts had been particularly difficult because at 89 degrees centigrade, the vessel’s compartments were too hot for workers to withstand for long.
A Day of Mourning for Sanchi Victims
Iran’s government has declared a day of national mourning on Monday to honor the brave mariners who died in the course of their mission to advance the country’s goals and suffered a terrible disaster and joined the martyrs.