Iranian oil tanker rocked by explosion off China, rescue efforts suspended

Iranian oil tanker rocked by explosion off China, rescue efforts suspended

Cleanup and rescue ships have faced toxic fumes, rain and windy conditions as they scrambled to find survivors and avoid a massive oil slick since Saturday's incident.

The Sanchi was carrying almost 1 million barrels of ultra-light oil when it collided Saturday evening with a freighter 160 miles off the coast and caught fire.

A stricken Iranian oil tanker in the East China Sea could burn for as long as one month, South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries told Reuters on Wednesday, as the blaze raged for a fourth day following a collision with a freight ship.

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

Parts of the listing Sanchi are below the water line and shielded by the fire, and cool enough for any potential survivors, the diplomat said earlier this week.

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

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China's Ministry of Foreign affairs said on Wednesday that 12 vessels were searching for the missing sailors in the tanker's vicinity before the explosion, and efforts were continuing to clean up any spilled light crude.

The tanker, run by Iran's top oil shipping operator National Iranian Tanker Co, hit the CF Crystal vessel that was carrying US grain on Saturday.

Intense flames, bad weather and poor visibility have hampered rescue efforts.

It is the second crash by an Iranian oil tanker to take place in 18 months, after an Iranian supertanker crashed with a container ship in the Singapore Strait back in July 2016. Shana said the oil had been purchased by South Korean customers. "The fire extinguishing operation did not achieve the desired effect", it said.

A simulation test also found that less than one per cent of oil content would remain on the sea surface five hours after a condensate oil leak.

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