There is still hope of finding survivors after an Iranian oil tanker burst into flames following a collision in the East China Sea, the tanker’s owners have said.
National Iranian Tanker Company spokesman Mohsen Bahrami said it was “likely” rescuers would find survivors among the 31 missing crew members on the Sanchi vessel.
He said: “The engine room is not directly affected by the fire and is about 14 meters under water… there is still hope.”
The body of one of the 32 crew members has already been recovered following the crash on Saturday.
The tanker had been carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate – an ultra-light form of crude oil – to South Korea when it collided with the CF Crystal freighter, which is registered in Hong Kong.
The 21 Chinese crew members of the CF Crystal vessel, which had been carrying grain from the United States, were rescued.
Officials have not yet established the cause of the collision, which happened off the coast of China, near Shanghai.
Harsh weather conditions have reportedly hindered the rescue effort with strong winds, high waves and toxic gases stopping rescue boats from locating missing sailors.
The weather has also hindered efforts to extinguish the fire on the Iranian ship, which has been alight for three days.
Search and rescue teams from the South Korean Coast Guard have been forced to stay as far as three miles away from the ferocious blaze.
The Chinese government said it had not found a “large-scale” oil leak and that the condensate was burning off and would leave little residue – reducing the chance of an oil slick.
Park Sung-dong, an official from South Korea’s ministry of oceans and fisheries, said: “We can’t grasp the level of oil contamination at this moment.
“The cargo is still on fire, so it is hard to figure out if oil is being spilled.”