All Hope Lost for Crew of Iranian Tanker
The Iranian tanker Sanchi that has been ablaze off China since January 6 sank on Sunday, causing the Iranian government to give up hope of finding any of the crew alive.
The bodies of three people have been recovered, and Iranian officials have now said the remaining 29 are presumed dead. President Hassan Rouhani has sent messages of condolence to the families of the crew and declared a day of national mourning on Monday. An official statement says the day is to honor “the brave mariners who died in the course of their mission to advance the country’s goals and suffered a terrible disaster and joined the martyrs.”
Chinese state media says a large amount of oil continues to burn in the surrounding waters. There was an explosion on board the tanker on Sunday which caused the front of the ship to collapse. Flames reached 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) high, China's transport ministry said.
The NITC-owned tanker was adrift and burning after being involved in a collision on January 6. She was carrying nearly a million barrels (136,000 tons) of ultra-light crude and condensate to South Korea when she collided with the Hong Kong-flagged bulk carrier CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles off Shanghai. Condensate is toxic and highly flammable, and there have been multiple explosions on the vessel.
The Chinese transport ministry announced that four rescuers equipped with masks and bottles of oxygen were placed on the deck at the back of the Sanchi with the help of a crane. They discovered the bodies of two sailors in a lifeboat. After recovering the black box, the rescuers tried to reach the living areas. But the temperature reached 89oC (192oF), and they could not enter. The salvage team was on the vessel for less than an hour before being forced to leave due to worsening conditions.
The body of another crew member was found last week. The rest of the crew, which included 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, remains missing.
The cause of the collision is still not known.