Burning tanker in East China Sea ‘in danger of exploding’

China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said a tanker that caught fire after colliding with a freighter in the East China Sea is “in danger of exploding or sinking,” prompting concerns of a potential environmental disaster.

State-run news outlet CGTN reported that authorities were still attempting to control the blaze in a bid to avert environmental damage from the vessel.

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However, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said poor weather conditions were “not that favorable for search and rescue work.” Chinese authorities “are also investigating how to prevent any secondary disaster,” he added.

The Panama-registered tanker “Sanchi” crashed into a Hong Kong-flagged vessel off the Chinese coast near Shanghai while en route to South Korea.

‘Deeply concerned’

Environmental rights group Greenpeace issued a statement saying it is “deeply concerned about the potential environmental impact an oil leak from this collision could cause.”

The vessel was carrying 136,000 metric tons – or nearly 1 million barrels – of oil condensate, considered a type of ultra-light oil, valued at €50.1 million ($60 million).

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“It’s very possible this will kill off marine life across a wide area,” Wei Xianghua, an environmental expert at Beijing’s Tsinghua University told AFP news agency. “At present, the only thing to be done is to make the best effort to not allow the oil to spread to other places.”

Chinese government vessels have been backed South Korean authorities and the US Navy during search and rescue operations. Authorities have yet to find the thirty Iranians and two Bangladeshis gone missing after the tanker crashed into the freighter.

ls/rc (AFP, Reuters)