Death Toll in UAE Tanker Fire Rises to Four

Fire aboard the Zoya 1 (FTA / WAM)

Published Feb 3, 2020 9:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

The death toll from the fire on board the VLCC Zoha 1 last week has risen to four, officials in the UAE said Sunday. 

The Zoha 1 caught fire about 20 miles off the coast of Sharjah, UAE on Wednesday, sending up a plume of smoke visible from the city's waterfront. 

12 crewmembers and 44 workers were on board the Zoya 1 at the time of the accident. After initial reports of a successful rescue, Indian consular officials in the UAE reported that two Indian nationals were dead and three people were missing. Eight others were injured in the accident.

The two additional bodies recovered over the weekend were not recognizable, and officials in the UAE plan to use DNA testing to confirm their identities. 

Consular officials told Gulf News that the work team was preparing the tanker for scrapping at the time of the incident, and video from the scene indicates that the Zoya 1 was in ballast. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

The Indian consul general to the UAE, who has the single name Vipul, told Gulf News that survivors were being lodged in a hotel because UAE officials refused to let their employer send them back to the damaged tanker. 

The 300,000 dwt Zoya 1 appears to have been stationary off the coast of Sharjah for at least the past year, and previous reports indicate that her tenure in the area may be longer. In 2018, her crew issued a desperate plea for assistance, claiming that they had been stranded since 2017 due to a legal dispute involving the vessel's owner. At the time, they asserted that they had not been paid in months and that they did not know when they might be able to expect a crew change.