Burning oil tanker sinks in East China Sea

32 crew members now presumed dead following collision with freighter

A Japanese rescue vessel fighting flames on board stricken oil tanker
(Image credit: Chinese Ministry of Transport)

An oil tanker that caught fire after a collision in the East China Sea has reportedly sunk, following two large explosions.

The Panama-registered Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tons - around 1 million barrels - of Iranian oil to South Korea when it collided with a Hong Kong freight vessel, the CF Crystal, and burst into flames.

The accident happened about 160 nautical miles east of the mouth of China’s Yangtze River at around 8pm local time on 7 January.

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Three bodies were recovered from the water over the course of the week, as an international effort to rescue the 30 Iranian and two Bangladeshi crew members and extinguish the flames was underway.

“There is no hope of finding survivors among the members of the crew,” said Mohammad Rastad, a spokesman for a rescue team sent by Iran.

Efforts to fight the blaze were hampered by “back-to-back explosions on board the tanker in addition to strong winds and high waves at sea”, CNN reports.

Chinese officials have “played down fears of a major environmental disaster”, The Guardian reports. “Because this is light crude oil spill, relatively speaking it has a much smaller impact than other oil spills”.

Chinese officials say a large percentage of the oil on board the Sanchi has been burnt off during the week, saying: “most of it has entered the atmosphere, so it’s had less impact on the ocean.”

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