32 missing after Iranian tanker collides with Chinese ship, spills oil

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A tanker carrying Iranian oil that collided with a Chinese freight ship in the East China Sea on Saturday was still ablaze this morning, a South Korean coast guard official said as emergency rescue teams continued to search for the missing crew.

The tanker was still ablaze yesterday.

"Sanchi is floating and burning as of now", the Chinese ministry said. Footage from state television channel CCTV showed the ship in the grip of an intense fire, enveloped in clouds of black smoke. The 225-meter-long second vessel CF CRYSTAL, carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain, was partly damaged in the collision. "There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts", the ministry said, adding it had dispatched four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site.

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It wasn't immediately clear what caused the collision. It said South Korea also sent a search plane and a coastguard ship.

"We are working very closely with the relevant authorities to establish the facts surrounding the collision", it said in a statement.

Oil tanker SANCHI, owned by an Iranian shipping company, collided with a cargo ship.

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Iran's Petroleum Ministry said the tanker belongs to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and was delivering its cargo to South Korea's Hanwha Total. Norwegian ship insurer Skuld has confirmed it was the lead hull insurer for the tanker and the protection and indemnity (P&I) insurer for CF Crystal.

It was not known if any of the tanker's missing 32 crew members had been rescued, said the coast guard official, who declined to give his name as he was not authorised to speak to media.

United States military vessels have been involved in a number of accidents in recent months in the region.

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Two months earlier, in June, the USS Fitzgerald and a cargo ship smashed into each other off Japan, leaving seven sailors dead.