The Iranian tanker, which crashed on Saturday against a cargo ship in the waters of the East China Sea, could explode and sink, as acknowledged on Monday by the country’s authorities. The rescue teams are finding many difficulties to find the 32 missing crew members after the accident, whose causes are still unknown, and they try to contain a possible spill that would cause a major environmental disaster.

The images broadcast by the Chinese state television and the South Korean Coast Guard show the burning ship, from which a dense column of smoke emerges, surrounded by several boats that try to extinguish the fire with the help of powerful water cannons. . The Chinese Ministry of Transport said that efforts to find the remaining crew members, 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, have been hampered by toxic fumes from the ship.

According to state television CCTV, the fire “has completely consumed the oil tanker”, which at the time of the incident carried 136,000 tons of refined oil, the equivalent of one million barrels. In comparison, the Prestige accident in 2002 off the Galician coast carried 77,000 tons, although it is not exactly the same type of hydrocarbon. The sinister ship is located about 250 kilometers off the coast of Shanghai.

In addition to the dispatch of rescue vessels, the Chinese authorities have deployed three more ships to clean the adjacent waters. South Korea and the United States have also sent planes and boats to the area. The Ministry of Transport assured during the weekend that a spill had been detected, but did not quantify its magnitude.

The tanker, 274 meters long, was traveling from Iran to South Korea. For unknown reasons, he collided with a 225-meter Hong Kong freighter carrying grain. The 21 crew of this last ship, which suffered minor damage, were rescued unharmed.

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