An Iranian oil tanker that collided with a Chinese freighter and burst into flames off the Chinese coast last week is now drifting into Japan’s exclusive economic zone – still burning.
Reports on Friday said that Sanchi had drifted about 25 miles (40 kms) to the south over the past two days.
Also, Japan’s Coast Guard announced that it was about 300 km (186 miles) northwest of Sokkozaki on the island of Amami Oshima as of Thursday afternoon, according to Reuters.
Amami Oshima is one of the northern islands in the Ryukyu islands chain that includes Okinawa.
Sanchi belongs to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and was carrying 136,000 metric tons (150,000 tons, or nearly 1 million barrels) of condensate, a type of ultra-light oil to South Korea.
Last Saturday night, it collided with the freighter CF Crystal that was carrying grain from the United States about 160 nautical miles (184 km) off China’s coast near Shanghai.
The tanker had a crew of 32 sailors at the time of the collision. The body of a mariner suspected to be from the ship was recovered on Monday and sent to Shanghai for identification.
The rest of the crew, which included 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, remains missing.
An unnamed spokesman with Japan’s Coast Guard told Reuters that Chinese authorities had turned down an offer to help, saying it would ask for help when needed.
Japan’s Coast Guard had sent patrol boats and aircraft to monitor the situation, the spokesman added.
About 14 rescue vessels are attempting to put out the fire and searching for missing crew members from the tanker, Reuters added in its report quoting Chinese media.
On Wednesday, an NITC spokesman said the company was hopeful to find survivors in the stricken Iranian ship. Mohsen Bahrami was quoted by media as saying that survivors could be trapped in the engine room of Sanchi.
“Since the vessel’s engine room is not directly affected by the fire and is about 14 meters (46 feet) under water, there is still hope,” Bahrami was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “We are persistently working to put out the fire and rescue possible survivors.”
The cause of the accident still remains unclear.