Tanker, freighter collide, leaving 22 missing near China

Rescue workers work on a rescue ship at the site where a cargo vessel sank following a collision with another vessel

China's ministry of transport said that fire experts, the Chinese coast guard, three specialized cleaning vessels and a high-power tug were on their way to the accident site to assist with rescue and investigation work.

Ships and aircraft from South Korea and the USA are aiding in rescue efforts, which have been hampered by fierce fires and poisonous gases that have engulfed the tanker and surrounding waters. The U.S. Navy, which sent a P-8A aircraft from Okinawa, Japan, to aid the search, said late Sunday that none of the missing crew had been found.

Authorities widened the search on Tuesday for 31 missing crew members, with 13 search-and-rescue vessels "carrying out an uninterrupted search within 900 square nautical miles" of the tanker, China's ministry of transport said. The crew of the Crystal were all Chinese nationals.

Rescuers from three countries - China, South Korea and the USA - are trying to find the missing crew, made up of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.

The environmental impact was not immediately clear, and the Chinese government did not give details as to the size of the spill.

"With the ship on fire, it is expected that much of this condensate oil will burn off rather than enter the water", Greenpeace East Asia said in a statement to AFP.

Images on television showed black smoke reaching up towards the sky.

"There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts", the Transport Ministry said.

The Sanchi had been travelling from Iran to South Korea, carrying 136,000 tons (nearly one million barrels) of condensate, a sort of ultra-light oil.


By comparison, the Exxon Valdez was carrying 1.26 million barrels of crude oil when it spilled 260,000 barrels into Prince William Sound off Alaska in 1989.

CF Crystal, which was built in 2011, was due to arrive in China on January 10, according to Reuters ship tracking data.

The Panamanian-flagged oil tanker Sanchi was being operated by Iran's Glory Shipping.

"The main effort should be focused on rescuing the missing crew, but the clean-up of large amounts of crude oil from the sea is something that also needs consideration", Wu said.

"We have no information on their fate", he told the news agency.

"We can not say all of them have died, because rescue teams are there and providing services".

Hanwha Total Petrochemical Co Ltd in South Korea was due to receive the cargo and was looking at ways to replace the lost barrels, a spokesman said.

Hanwha Total was not immediately available for comment.

Reuters ship tracking data shows Sanchi was built in 2008 and was managed by the NationalIranian Tanker Co (NITC). In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in crowded waters near Singapore, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.

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