Iran Firm Says There May be Survivors from Tanker Crash

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The Iranian company whose oil tanker burst into flames after a collision in the East China Sea says there is still hope of finding survivors as 31 crew members remain missing and rescue efforts continued Wednesday.

As the stricken Sanchin still lists after colliding with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal late Saturday, a spokesman for National Iranian Tanker Co. told The Associated Press in Tehran that rescuers “likely” will find survivors.

“Since the vessel’s engine room is not directly affected by the fire and is about 14 meters (46 feet) under water, there is still hope,” spokesman Mohsen Bahrami said late Tuesday. “We are persistently working to put out the fire and rescue possible survivors.”

Mohsen Bahrami, a spokesman for National Iranian Tanker Company, NITC (Image Courtesy: Associated Press)

The body of one of the 32 crew members has been recovered and taken to Shanghai for identification, Bahrami said.

Mahmoud Abuli Ghasemabadi, the brother of missing Iranian sailor Ehasan Abuli Ghasemabadi, said he and other families remained hopeful for good news.

“I ask countries that are in that region and can offer any assistance to help us deal with this situation as soon as possible,” Ghasemabadi said.

The Panamanian-registered Sanchin had a crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, Chinese state media reported. The 21 members of the Crystal’s all-Chinese crew were rescued.

What caused Saturday’s collision in the East China Sea, 257 kilometers (160 miles) off the coast of Shanghai, remains unclear.

Explosion Fears as Fire Intensifies on Sanchi

Sanchi is at risk of exploding or sinking, as officials reported there were no signs of survivors 36 hours after the vessel erupted in flames. A huge fire was still raging around the stricken ship, which had been carrying 136,000 tonnes of light oil, with fierce heat and thick black smoke billowing from the vessel and the surrounding sea.

Rescuers from three countries attempting to reach the crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis were being beaten back by toxic clouds and intense fires, China’s transportation ministry said. The Korean coastguard sent a ship to the scene but said bad weather was also hampering the rescue efforts. A US navy aircraft took part in the search on Sunday, scouring a large area before returning to Kadena airbase in Okinawa, Japan.

Although the damage has been difficult to fully assess, Korean coastguard officials say much of the condensate may have evaporated or burned off in the aftermath of the crash. But any oil that did leak into the ocean will be harder to clean up, since condensate mixes more easily with water compared with traditional crude oil.

The tanker was heading to South Korea when it collided with a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, the CF Crystal, carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain. Ten government vessels and “many fishing ships” were helping with the continuing rescue and clean-up effort, the Chinese ministry said.

Sea News, January 10