First Published: 2018-01-11

Iranian criticism grows as Chinese battle tanker fire
Chinese firefighters struggle to extinguish blaze on crashed oil tanker as officials voice concern over missing Iranian crew members.
Middle East Online

Smoke and flames come from burning oil tanker "Sanchi" at sea off the coast of eastern China.

BEIJING - Chinese firefighters spent Thursday struggling to extinguish a blaze on a stricken oil tanker as criticism mounted in Iran over the whether enough was being done to locate dozens of its missing crew members.

The Sanchi, carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil from Iran, has been in flames since colliding with the CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter, 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai on Saturday.

One body has been found but 31 sailors -- mainly Iranians -- remain missing with officials in Iran hoping they have found sanctuary on an unaffected part of the vessel.

Cleanup and rescue ships have faced toxic fumes, rain and windy conditions as they scrambled to find survivors and avoid a massive oil slick since Saturday's incident.

China's transport ministry said Thursday evening the Panamanian-flagged 274-metre (899-foot) tanker remained on fire, adding two ships had spent the day spraying the vessel with retardant foam.

But rescue efforts were still being hampered by "terrible" weather conditions and toxic gases from the burning oil which "pose a great danger to rescuers," the ministry said in a statement.

Of the 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis on the Sanchi's crew, only one body has so far been found and there has been no word from them since the collision.

Operated by Iran's National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), the vessel was taking light crude oil condensate to South Korea.

On Thursday the Iranian Merchant Mariners Syndicate, an industry NGO, said it had written to Chinese authorities expressing frustration at the lack of progress in putting out the fire.

"It was clear that the Chinese are not cooperating enough," IMMS vice president Saman Rezaie, said.

Iranian news website Khabar Online published video interviews with some of the relatives of those missing.

"I don't know what else to say but just beg them to rescue them as I am sure that they are alive inside," said one woman, who identified herself as the wife of the Sanchi's chief engineer.

Other relatives said they thought the fire should have been extinguished by now.

An NITC spokesperson had previously suggested China might be more concerned with stopping a major oil leak in waters important to their fishing industry than rushing to save crew members.

The 21 Chinese crew member of the Crystal, which did not burst into flames, were all rescued.

 

France, US clash with Iran over changing nuclear accord

Syria donors fall short of UN target without US aid

Same family names in Lebanon election

Turkey jails opposition daily journalists

Iraq’s ex-football stars from sports to politics

US defense secretary says 'no decision' yet on Iran deal

Israel flash floods leave several young people missing

Highs and lows in Egypt’s Operation Sinai

416 donors to IS identified in France

Five migrants die trying to cross Mediterranean

Rights architects nominated for UK art prize

In Iraq's Anbar, election offers chance to settle scores

Philippines demands explanation after Kuwait expels ambassador

UK ‘seeking information’ over British-Iranian’s arrest

Macron says Trump may pull out of Iran nuclear deal

Turkey opposition journalists demand acquittal in terror trial

UN says Syria blocking humanitarian aid to Douma

OPCW experts visit second site of alleged Douma gas attack

Israeli policeman gets 9 months jail for killing Palestinian

US court rules for Arab Bank in precedent-setting case

Lebanese candidates pay hefty price for media coverage

Madani’s resignation sheds light on Iranian power play

Kuwait expels Filipino ambassador over treatment of workers

Syria aid donations for 2018 fall short of amount hoped

Growing anti-war sentiment in the US Congress could spell trouble for Trump

Liverpool’s Salah wins Israeli defence minister’s plaudits

Body of assassinated Palestinian driven through Malaysian capital

'Gap in perceptions' threatens wider Middle East war

UNESCO picks Morocco for project on prevention of violent extremism

Syrian regime retakes region near Damascus from rebels

Mogherini: Iran deal 'needs to be preserved'

Syria rebels prepare as Assad sets sights on next target

Iran's Rouhani questions 'right' to seek new nuclear deal

Iraq's Shiites split ahead of crucial vote

EU to Russia, Iran: Bring Syria to peace talks

Trump, Macron call for 'new' nuclear deal with Iran

Saudi Arabia claims killing of Yemen rebel leader

Syria's Idlib 'big new challenge' for international community

UNRWA chief says Palestinian aid $200 million short since Trump cuts

Bad memories resurface at Raqa’s mass grave

Turkey newspaper chief slams journalist terror trial

Setback for Yemen rebels after strike takes out leader

Saudi issues Islamic sukuk sale to finance deficit

Yarmuk, an epicentre of Syria's bloody conflict

Egypt’s Eurobond succeeds but risks remain