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China warns of possible explosion in Iranian oil tanker

China warns of possible explosion in Iranian oil tanker”

Part of an oil tanker that has been ablaze for days off the coast of Shanghai exploded Wednesday, forcing rescue boats searching for 31 missing sailors to retreat, Chinese authorities said.

According to China's Ministry of Transport, 21 crew members on the bulk freighter - all Chinese nationals - have been rescued, but there has been no information on the condition of the missing crew on the Iranian tanker, SANCHI.

As the stricken Sanchin still lists after colliding with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal late Saturday, a spokesman for National Iranian Tanker Co. told The Associated Press in Tehran that rescuers "likely" will find survivors.

Still, condensate is highly volatile when exposed to air and water and concerns were growing the tanker could explode and sink.

The Sanchi's own fuel that leaked during the collision will be more hard to clean, officials said.

"The fire extinguishing operation did not achieve the desired effect", it said.

“The problem is the ship's heavy bunker fuel, ” said Chauncey Naylor, a USA -based director of emergency response and training at Tyco Corp's oil-fire specialists Williams Fire & Hazard Control, which is not involved in the clean-up.

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According to the ministry, Japanese sea police arrived at the scene an hour before the explosion and established contact with Haixun 01.

Photos on the Ministry of Transportation's microblog showed thick black smoke pouring out of the ship on Thursday morning.

"For now, burning might be good for consuming the leaked oil, but there will be some remaining for which disposal will be hard", Lin Boqiang, director of the China Centre for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times.

The Panama-flagged tanker, named Sanchi, was en route from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-flagged CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles (184 miles) east of the Yangtze River estuary on Saturday night, China's Ministry of Transport said.

Experts are especially anxious because the ship is carrying condensate, an ultralight version of crude oil. Bunker fuel is the dirtiest kind of oil, extremely toxic when spilled, though much less explosive.

Oil is usually not degradable, meaning the damage to the ocean would be long-term, he said.

"Spilled oil covering the ship body and its surrounding water is still burning, which leaves Sanchi at risk of exploding and sinking", said the MOT in the statement.



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