Burning Tanker Sanchi Drifting in Japanese Ecomonic Zone - Chinese Rejected Help

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China sent four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site, South Korea dispatched a ship and a helicopter, while a US Navy military aircraft searched an area of about 12,350 square kilometres for crew members.

The tanker hit a freight ship on Saturday night in the East China Sea, burst into flames and has been spilling oil.

The ship, which has been ablaze for nearly a week since the collision on January 6, is now about 286 kilometers northwest of the Japanese island of Amami Oshima, part of the Ryukyu chain that includes Okinawa, the coast guard said.

The blast happened on board the tanker in the afternoon after rescue crews were dousing the ship with foam in an attempt to put out the fire, China's Transport Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

The extent of the environmental harm and size of the oil spill from the ship were not known, but the disaster has the potential to be the worst since 1991 when 260,000 tonnes of oil leaked off the Angolan coast.

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The Sanchi tanker run by Iran's top oil shipping operator, National Iranian Tanker Co, collided with the CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles off China's coast - near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.

The IMO leader expressed his support and sympathies to the missing seafarers and their families while commending those involved in search and rescue efforts.The 164,000 DWT Sanchi was headed to South Korea from Iran, and 75,000 DWT CF Crystal was bound for Guangdong, China, carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain from the United States.

Hassan Qashqavi, an Iranian deputy foreign minister, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency there was still a chance that some of the crew on the Sanchi may have survived.

Ship tracking data shows the collision occurred in waters not frequently used by large vessels like tankers, dry-bulk carriers or container ships.

The ministry statement also confirmed a Japanese maritime police vessel had attended the fire.

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"We believe flames would last for two weeks or a month considering previous cases of oil tank accidents", said Park Sung-dong, an official at the ministry.

When condensate meets water, it evaporates quickly and can cause a large-scale explosion as it reacts with air and turns into a flammable gas, the ministry said on Monday.

Even after parts of it exploded, and while it's still on fire, an Iranian diplomat said Thursday the crew on the oil tanker Sanchi may yet be alive.

Chinese media said the tanker was still on fire Tuesday and at risk of exploding. Trapped on board there are 31 crew members whose relatives, interviewed exclusively by euronews, are appealing to the worldwide community.

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