Home / World News / Burning oil tanker Sanchi may explode and sink as body found in search for missing crew

Burning oil tanker Sanchi may explode and sink as body found in search for missing crew

The body of a crew member has been found on a burning oil tanker off China’s east coast.

The victim was among 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis missing after the tanker Sanchi collided with a grain ship 160 miles off Shanghai on Saturday.

Alireza Irvash, from Iran’s consulate in Shanghai, told Iranian state broadcaster IRIB that the body had been found three or four miles from the tanker and “cannot be easily identified”, even though the victim was wearing a fire safety vest.

The other Sanchi crew members have not yet been found.

Meanwhile, experts are trying to bring the fire under control and contain the leaking oil, amid concerns the ship might explode and sink.

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.

Condensate is very low density, highly toxic and more explosive than normal crude.

Most types of condensate are colourless and virtually odourless, making them difficult to see and contain after a spill.

A map showing just some of the ship collisions in seas around China over the last few years
Some of the ship collisions in seas around China in recent years

According to the South Korean Coast Guard, much of the condensate may have evaporated or burned immediately, but the Sanchi’s own fuel – which will be heavier – will be more difficult to deal with.

There are concerns that marine life in the area is at risk from the spill, which could be the worst tanker oil spill since 1991.

Rescuers from three countries – China, South Korea and the US – are trying to find the missing crew.

The flames and poisonous gases coming from the wreck are making the search difficult, however.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “Conditions…are not that favourable for search and rescue work.”

The 21 Chinese crew on the grain ship – Hong Kong-registered CF Crystal – were all safely rescued.

The cause of the collision is not clear.

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