Iran Navy Commandos in China to Join Oil Tanker Rescue Efforts

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An oil tanker that collided with a freighter off China's east coast is still on fire as firefighting and search efforts for the tanker's missing crew members continue.

The tanker, run by Iran's top oil shipping operator National Iranian Tanker Co, hit the CF Crystal vessel that was carrying USA grain on Saturday.

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 coast and caught fire.

"We believe flames would last for two weeks or a month considering previous cases of oil tank accidents", Park Sung-Dong said.

China's Ministry of Transport said that poor weather conditions (heavy winds, rain and high waves) has been fanning the fire and hampering efforts to bring it under control.

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.

Parts of the listing Sanchi are below the water line and shielded by the fire, and cool enough for any potential survivors, the diplomat said earlier this week.

The Sanchi was delivering 136,000 tonnes of condensate, a highly flammable ultra-light crude, to South Korea.

Chinese authorities had on Monday warned that the vessel could explode.

Authorities and environmentalists worry the ship is increasingly vulnerable to breaking up and sinking the longer the blaze rages.

The front section of an Iranian oil tanker that has been on fire for days off the east China coast has exploded, forcing rescue boats searching for 31 missing sailors to retreat and sparking environmental concerns. Bunker fuel is the dirtiest kind of oil, extremely toxic when spilled, though much less explosive.

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The Sanchi may have been carrying about 1,000 tonnes by the time it hit the grain freighter, according to bunker fuel traders' estimates.