Oil Spill in East China Sea Widens Following Iranian Oil Tanker Crash

Oil Spill in East China Sea Widens Following Iranian Oil Tanker Crash

Tokyo/Beijing - A stricken Iranian tanker that sank in the East China Sea on Sunday in the worst oil-ship disaster in decades has produced a large oil slick, say Chinese media and Japanese authorities, amid mounting fear of damage to the marine ecosystem.

"Given that the fuel tanks in these sorts of vessels are located close to the engine room, it is likely that the fuel tanks have remained intact since the initial collision", said Paul Johnston, a research fellow at the University of Exeter.

"There is no hope of finding survivors among the members of the crew", Mohammad Rastad, spokesman for the Iranian rescue team sent to Shanghai, told Iran's state broadcaster.

The tanker was carrying one million barrels of condensate, an extremely light crude oil, to South Korea when it collided with the freighter.

Report says a total of 32 sailors, including 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, are still missing after the collision on January 6.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani extended on Sunday his condolences to the families of 32 sailors who died after their oil tanker collided with another vessel off China's east coast.

Authorities and environmentalists have said it's too early to know the impact on fisheries, although Greenpeace said the area is spawning ground for bluefin leatherjacket and swordtip squid and the winter habitat of blue crab, chub mackerel and yellow croaker.

This makes it the biggest tanker spill since 1991 when 260,000 tonnes of oil leaked off the Angolan coast.

It showed video of a tower of billowing black smoke that it said reached as high as 1,000 metres, and flames on the surface of the water.

The Panama-registered tanker "Sanchi" burns after a collision with a Hong Kong-registered freighter off China's eastern coast, on January 8.

The salvage team recovered Sanchi's "black box", Xinhua also said on Saturday. But the team was forced to leave the ship after just half an hour because the wind shifted and “thick toxic smoke” had complicated the operation. The day after it sank, China's State Oceanic Administration reported two oil slicks, one almost 15km long and another about 18km long, although it is unclear if these are from the cargo or the fuel tanks. Although condensate easily burns off or evaporates in a fire, it could seriously harm the marine environment if trapped underwater.

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