Iran holds out hope for survivors on burning oil tanker

Ministry of Transport firefighting boats work to put on a blaze on the oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea off the eastern coast of China. Rescue ships looking for missing crew members from

IRAN said a fresh explosion on a stricken oil tanker was complicating rescue efforts as Japan reported the vessel had drifted into its exclusive economic zone.

Haghshenas said a 12-member elite rescue team had been dispatched from Iran but was waiting in Shanghai for conditions that would allow them to land on the vessel.

Poor weather continued to hamper the rescue work, Lu Kang, a spokesman at China's foreign ministry, told a regular news briefing.

It collided with the freighter CF Crystal (IMO:9497050) that was carrying grain from the United States about 160 nautical miles (184 km) off China's coast near Shanghai.

Photos on the Chinese Ministry of Transportation's microblog showed thick black smoke pouring from the ship on Thursday morning.

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The Sanchi was carrying almost 1 million barrels of condensate, a type of gassy, ultra-light oil, when it collided Saturday evening with a freighter 257 kilometers (160 miles) off the Chinese coast and caught fire. The U.S. dispatched an airplane from Okinawa, Japan, that has searched an area of 3,600 square nautical miles without locating any missing persons, according to a statement by the U.S. 7th Fleet. That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels, worth about $60 million, based on global crude oil prices.

Experts warned that a spill of the Panamanian-flagged 274-metre (899-foot) tanker's cargo could spell environmental catastrophe as authorities said the ship could explode or sink.

Without offering specifics, the Iranian government said it invited six world countries to join the response operations under way off the eastern coast of China. The Hong Kong freighter, the CF Crystal, wasn't seriously damaged, and all 21 crew members on board were rescued.

Trying to contain a spill of condensate, which is extremely low in density, highly toxic and much more explosive than normal crude oil, may be hard.

The Shanghai Maritime Bureau's navigation department said the collision did not affect traffic in and out of Shanghai, one of the world's busiest and biggest ports, or ports along the Yangtze river.

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