Two more bodies retrieved from Iranian ship aflame in East China Sea

World Today

China Sea Collision In this photo provided by Korea Coast Guard, the Panama-registered tanker “Sanchi” is seen ablaze after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China’s eastern coast Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018. The oil tanker collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China’s eastern coast, leaving its entire crew of 32 missing, most of them Iranians, authorities said. (Korea Coast Guard via AP)

Salvage workers have managed to board the Iranian oil tanker still burning a week after it collided with a Chinese freighter in the East China Sea. A team of Iranian commandos is joining the operation aboard the Sanchi. CGTN’s Wei Lynn Tang reports.

Two more bodies were found on board the Sanchi oil tanker Saturday morning, bringing the current body count to three.

There were 32 sailors on board the Iranian managed vessel before the collision occurred. 30 from Iran and 2 from Bangladesh. The ship’s data recorder, similar to a plane’s “black box,” was also retrieved.

“The condensate oil is still burning, and the emitted gas is surely harmful,” said Vice Manager of Cosmo Shipping Xue Zhou.

“But due to wind directions and the cold air, coastal areas in our country will not be very much affected. In addition, from my perspective, oil burning is less polluting than an oil spill. In general, the rescue measures that we have taken so far are effective. It’s very much likely that the explosion will be controlled.”

“Perhaps the explosion will still last about one or two weeks,” said He Wang, a chemical expert at Daya Bay Huade Petrochemical Company. “The tanker is unlikely to sink, but there are risks of it overturning, as three cabins have been flooded.­”

That said, the mission to find the missing sailors is still fraught with risk.

The gas that emanates from condensate oil is toxic to humans when exposed to air. He Wang says it could take 1 to 2 more weeks before the fire on the oil tanker dies down, because of the huge amount of product on board – some 111,000 tons of condensate oil.

The best way forward, according to He, is to let the oil tanker continue to burn and evaporate the condensate oil.

Thirteen rescue boats have been dispatched to help – eight from China, one from South Korea, and two from Japan. These teams will focus on preventing pollution, extinguishing the fire, and searching for the victims.

The cause of the collision has not yet been ascertained. WLT, CGTN, Shanghai.