There is “no hope of finding survivors” on a stricken Iranian oil tanker which has been burning off China’s east coast for more than a week, officials have said.
The Sanchi tanker has been ablaze since it collided with Hong Kong-registered freight ship CF Crystal, 185 miles off China’s coast near Shanghai.
Mohammad Rastad, spokesman for the Iranian rescue team, has told Iran’s state broadcaster he believes all the crew on board were killed in the first hour of the accident “due to the explosion and the release of gas”.
“There is no hope of finding survivors among the members of the crew,” he said.
The vessel, which “suddenly ignited” at midday (4am UK time) on January 6, is in danger of capsizing “at any time”, according to Chinese state television.
The body of one crew member was found three or four miles from the tanker two days after the collision.
The victim was wearing a fire safety vest, but “could not be easily identified”,
The remainder of the 32-strong crew – which was made up of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis – have not yet been found.
All 21 Chinese crew members of the Crystal, which was carrying grain from the US, have been rescued.
The cause of the collision is not clear.
The Sanchi was carrying 150,000 tons (nearly one million barrels) of light crude oil from Iran.
It is unknown how much of the cargo, and fuel from the ship, has poured into the sea.
Rescue efforts have been hampered due to weather conditions and “repeated explosions and gas leaks”.
Flames over 900m high have been reported, and the vessel is also two-thirds under water.
This is the latest of dozens of shipping accidents in the region, with the area dubbed “the new Bermuda Triangle”, because of the number of ships that founder there.