Authorities work against clock to clean up oil spill off China's coast

Authorities work against clock to clean up oil spill off China's coast

An Iranian oil tanker that sank in the East China Sea has left two oil slicks covering a combined 109 sq km, the Chinese government has said, as maritime police scour the area for damage.

Some experts say the spill could shape up to be the worst since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

There is a growing concern about the consequences of the oil spill produced by the sinking of an Iranian tanker in the East China Sea.

The 900 foot-long tanker was carrying 136,000 tons - around 1 million barrels - of ultra-light crude oil at the time of the collision.

The bodies of three members of Sanchi's crew were recovered by SAR teams, and the remaining 29 mariners on board are presumed dead.

"I extend my honest condolences to the mourning families and survivors of the Sanchi oil tanker's crew, who passed away during the heartbreaking incident of the burning and sinking tanker", Khamenei said in a statement.

Bunker fuel is the dirtiest kind of oil, extremely toxic when spilled, though less explosive than condensate.

A Coast Guard spokesman said patrol boats were cruising through the area to help diffuse the slick, adding that the “spill area had shrunk from the previous day”, referring to the overall narrowing of the area covered by the slick.

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All 21 Chinese crew members on the bulk freighter were rescued.

On Tuesday, China had reported two slicks measuring about 69 square kilometres and an additional 40-square-kilometre area of "scattered" oil.

The Chinese transport ministry said on Wednesday a salvage team had located the wreck, which was at a depth of 115m under sea level, and was preparing to send underwater robots to explore it.

Authorities and environmentalists have said it's too early to know the impact on fisheries, although Greenpeace said the area is spawning ground for bluefin leatherjacket and swordtip squid and the winter habitat of blue crab, chub mackerel and yellow croaker.

It is also on the migratory pathway of numerous marine mammals, such as humpback and gray whales.

An Iranian cargo ship was recently hit by a Hong Kong-registered cargo ship that caused an oil spill.

As it light oil, this oil slick is less visible and more soluble, which means it could make a greater impact below the surface. The final explosion and foundering last weekend led to what was likely the largest release of condensate in history.

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