The Chinese Transport Ministry has announced that there was an explosion aboard the Iranian oil tanker that had collided with a Chinese vessel in the East China Sea.
"At 13:35 local time (05:35 GMT), an explosion occurred at the scene of the Sanchi Tanker, forcing rescue ships to halt their fire extinguishing efforts and withdraw to a safe distance. The efforts to extinguish the fire failed to reach the expected results," the Transport Ministry said in a statement published on its official social media account on WeChat.
An official from the MOT’s press office told Sputnik that conditions at the scene continued to be challenging for rescuers due to severe weather conditions such as high waves and the rescue team had not decided whether to continue their efforts to put out the fire on Thursday.
On January 6, the tanker Sanchi operated by National Iranian Tanker Co collided with a ship carrying grain from the US off China's coast near Shanghai. Rescuers conducted an operation in order to find 31 missing sailors and put the fire out amid concerns that the ship may explode or sink as it was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of highly flammable ultra-light crude, condensate.
Previously, the Chinese government stated that there was no "large-scale" oil leak as a result of the incident, the reason for which is currently not clear.
An Iranian oil tanker collided with a bulk freighter and caught fire off China's east coast causing it to spill oil into the sea. Thirty-one crew members remain missing. #marinesafety #oilspillhttps://t.co/zYjHlqLld0 pic.twitter.com/WkcUe5bk7V— Clear Seas (@ClearSeasOrg) 10 января 2018 г.
According to the the spokesman of the Iranian company owning the tanker, there possibly are survivors aboard the the ship as "the engine room is not directly affected by the fire and is about 14 meters under water."
This is the second incident involving a tanker owned by Iranian company in about 2 years, with the latest taking place in August 2016, when a tanker collided with another vessel in the Singapore Strait.