An Iranian oil tanker continues to burn in the East China Sea Tuesday, three days after it collided with a Chinese cargo ship off the China’s east coast.
China’s Ministry of Transport said Tuesday that efforts by emergency vessels to extinguish the fire on the Panamanian-registered tanker Sanchi and search for its missing crewmen were hampered by poor conditions at sea, including strong winds and choppy waves, along with toxic fumes from the wrecked tanker.
China, South Korea and the U.S. Navy have deployed ships and aircraft to assist with the search for the missing crewmen amid an area of 900-square nautical miles.
The ministry says rescue workers recovered one unidentified body near the wreckage Monday believed to be one of the tanker’s missing 32 crew members, including 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.
Chinese officials had said earlier Monday that the oil tanker was at risk of exploding and sinking amid warnings of a potential environmental disaster.
The Panama-registered tanker Sanchi was sailing from Iran to South Korea carrying 136,000 metric tons of condensate, an ultra-light type of crude oil, when it slammed into the Hong Kong-registered CF Crystal about 257 kilometers off the coast of Shanghai.
The Crystal’s 21 crew members – all Chinese nationals – were rescued after the collision. The ship was carrying grain from the United States to China.
It was not immediately clear what caused the collision.
Saturday’s is the second collision for a ship owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year-and-a-half.
In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.