An Iranian oil tanker on fire for two days after colliding with a Chinese cargo ship off the coast of China is at risk of exploding or sinking, authorities said today as rescuers recovered one body amid no sign of survival for 32 foreign crew members. Rescuers recovered an unidentified body believed to be that of a missing crew member of Panamanian-flagged tanker 'Sanchi' while search is on for 31 other crew members, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a media briefing here. Thirty-two crew members, including 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, went missing after the tanker carrying 136,000 tonnes of oil condensate from Iran to South Korea collided with a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter and caught fire on Saturday in waters about 160 sea miles east of the Yangtze River's estuary. Condensate is an ultra light version of crude oil. It is highly toxic, low in density and considerably more explosive than regular crude oil. The huge fire still raged around the tanker with thick black smoke billowing from the vessel and the surrounding sea. The 274-metre tanker Sanchi is "in danger of exploding or sinking", the ministry said. Lu said China sent several ships to the site, but the environment and conditions on the ground are not favourable. About the concerns of a major oil spill he said, We also have dispatched cleaning vessel to the site. We are also investigating to prevent any secondary disaster." The oil tanker has tilted toward the right side after the collision.
The 225-meter-long second vessel CF CRYSTAL, carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain, was partly damaged in the collision. It was owned by a Chinese shipping company and was travelling from the United States to Guangdong, China. Asked how China plans to deal with issues related to compensation, he said the reason for the accident is yet to ascertained. "Immediately after the accident happened, China started its rescue work and is trying to clean the waste," he said. Chinese maritime authorities dispatched eight vessels, including three specialised cleansing vessels, for search and rescue operation. After coordination by the China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre, South Korea dispatched a coast guard ship and a fixed-wing aircraft to assist in the search and rescue. The US Navy also sent a military aircraft to help with the rescue efforts. Environment experts have expressed fear that the accident could create a massive environmental disaster and kill off marine life across a wide area. Greenpeace in a statement said it was "concerned about the potential environmental damage that could be caused by the 1 million barrels of crude oil on board." According to reports, the collision has the potential to cause the worst such oil spill in decades.
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