Rescue ships looking for 31 missing crew members from a burning oil tanker have expanded their search area to more than 2,600 square kilometres (1,000 square miles), authorities said.
The tanker Sanchi, owned by Iran's top oil shipping operator National Iranian Tanker Co, was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, an ultra-light, highly flammable and explosive fuel, to South Korea.
Hard weather and sea conditions have hampered search efforts in recent days with only one body recovered - that of an Iranian national that Sanchi'sowners National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) believe to be one of the vessel's crew.
The flames were forcing the South Korean Coast Guard's search and rescue team to stay as far as 5km away from the tanker, two South Korean officials told Reuters.
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Photos on the Chinese Ministry of Transportation's microblog showed thick black smoke pouring from the ship on Thursday morning.
A statement concerning the incident from China's Ministry of Transport said it "continued to organise full search and rescue work on site" and "continued the non-stop search for crew" who have been listed as missing since Sanchi collided with bulk carrier CF Crystal on 6 January and burst into flame.
The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate, an ultra-light crude oil that becomes highly volatile when exposed to air and water, to South Korea.
According to the VesselsValue database, Sanchi is owned by the National Iranian Tanker Company and CF Crystal is owned by the Changhong Group HK Ltd.
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A day earlier, the engineer of the highest category of emergency response center for spill of fuel management for safety at sea in Yantai Zhao An in the published statement of the Ministry of transport noted that the gas condensate contains toxic hydrogen sulphide and evaporation can pollute the atmosphere. A new report from the Wall Street Journal also notes that the Chinese freighter and the Iranian tanker had stopped transmitting their locations to naval tracking systems prior to the crash.
The fate of the remaining 31 sailors is not known.
The remains of one of the 32 mariners on board the tanker has been found, Iranian and Chinese officials confirmed. The freighter's 22 crew members were all reported safe.
Unknown the causes of the collision, of course it is instead that China is facing an unprecedented environmental disaster since the tanker carried 150 thousand tons of condensed oil mostly finished at sea.
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South Korea, Japan and the U.S. are aiding in rescue efforts.