Authorities say explosion risk for Iranian oil tanker ablaze off China coast

Image SKOREA-CHINA-IRAN-ACCIDENT-SHIP

Rescuers have found a body believed to be that of a sailor from an Iranian oil tanker which caught fire after a collision in the East China Sea, with 31 other people still missing.

The Iranian-operated, Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Sanchi collided with the Hong Kong-registered CF Crystal cargo vessel with oil products equivalent to almost a million barrels aboard.

If all the cargo from the Panamanian-flagged 274-metre (899-foot) tanker spills, it would be the biggest oil slick from a ship in decades and could kill marine life across a vast area, analysts have said.

Chinese media said the tanker was still on fire Tuesday and at risk of exploding. The South Korean coast guard also sent a vessel and rescue helicopter to the spot.

All of the 21 Chinese crew members were rescued from the CF Crystal, which suffered only "non-critical" damage in the crash, according to Reuters.

"There is a wide perimeter of flames around the vessel because of the spillage and search and rescue efforts are being carried out with difficulty", Iran's Rastad said.

That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels, worth about $76 million, based on global crude oil prices.

The crew of the Sanchi are all Iranian nationals except for two Bangladeshi citizens.

"Sanchi is floating and burning as of now".

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The Panama-registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided late Saturday with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal in the East China Sea, 257 kilometers (160 miles) off the coast of Shanghai, China's Ministry of Transport said.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the collision.

The size of the oil spill from the ship and the extent of the environmental harm were not known, but the disaster has the potential to be the worst since 1991 when 260,000 tonnes of oil leaked off the Angolan coast.

The transport ministry said the vessel was still burning on Tuesday.

The Sanchi belongs to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), Iran's petroleum ministry said, and was transporting the oil to South Korea's Hanwha Total.

The tanker has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according the United Nations -run International Maritime Organization.

The Sanchi tanker, leased by Hanwha Total Petrochemical Co Ltd, had "valid foreign insurance", Iranian oil ministry spokesman Kasra Nouri told Iran's state television.

It is the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co in less than a year and a half.

Its entire 32 person crew remained missing Sunday as the fire continued to blaze. In August 2016, an Iranian supertanker and a container ship collided in the Singapore Strait, causing damage to both vessels but no injuries and pollution.

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