Burning Iranian tanker sinks one week after collision in China Sea

World Today

China Sea CollisionIn this Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, photo provided by China’s Ministry of Transport, firefighting boats work to put on a blaze on the oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea off the eastern coast of China. Rescue ships looking for missing crew members from the oil tanker Sanchi have expanded their search area to more than 2,600 square kilometers (1,000 square miles) as Chinese state television reported Friday that maritime authorities still have not found any survivors, or put out the blaze onboard the ship. (Ministry of Transport via AP)

An oil spill is getting worse after an Iranian oil tanker sank in the East China Sea, but China says it’s ready to tackle severe damage to the maritime environment.

CGTN’s Su Xiaoxiao has more.

A sudden and powerful explosion turned the oil tanker into an erupting volcano on the ocean. A CGTN news team witnessed the blast that sent smoke soaring thousands of meters into the sky.

“We can see [the] Sanchi tanker has completely sunk,” one said. “Nothing but debris and oil are still burning. A 10 square kilometers oil belt has been formed. It was only three square kilometers two days ago. It is a very serious situation.”

It was one week ago that the tanker – carrying 136,000 tons of lightweight oil – and a Chinese freighter collided while the Iranian ship was on its way to South Korea.

The 21 sailors on the Chinese cargo ship survived, but the tanker was less fortunate. Three bodies have been recovered, while 30 people are still missing. Tehran, however, says there is “no hope” of survival for the missing sailors.

“This is a rather severe marine accident I have come across in my career,” according to Teng Da of the State Oceanic Administration. “Now the tanker has sunk, what comes next to the ecological system, the government should watch closely. They could face oil spill and deal with toxic materials emission.”

China has dispatched eight ships to search for the missing and contain the fire. Foreign Minister Wang Yi promised his Iranian counterpart that Beijing won’t give up searching for survivors.

One day before the tanker exploded, a four-man Chinese salvage team entered the wreckage and retrieved two bodies and the ship’s black box. The Republic of Korea, Japan and the United States also joined the rescue operation.