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China today refuted the reports of an impending catastrophe of Iranian tanker which caught fire after colliding with a Chinese cargo ship off the east China coast, saying no large-scale oil spill was found in waters. It is a race against time for authorities as 31 people of the 274-metre tanker Sanchi are still missing amid concerns that the tanker may explode.
It is on fire for three days. Authorities and environment experts have been fearful of a major environmental disaster in the East China Sea, claiming that the tanker continues to leak oil after colliding with the cargo ship. China's Transport Ministry said that no largescale oil spill was found, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. A Panama-registered oil tanker, carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate oil, caught fire on Saturday after it collided with a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter. Zhao Ruxiang, an expert with China's Yantai Oil Spill Response Technical Centre, said a simulation test showed condensate oil in water can evaporate so quickly that it will leave little residue, less than one per cent after five hours. Yet it is toxic and volatile when exposed to air, with a possible risk of triggering explosions, Zhao said. The Iranian tanker is carrying one million barrels of condensate. Experts said that condensate is very different from the black crude that is often seen in oil spills. It exists in gas form within high-pressure oil reservoirs and liquefies once extracted. It is toxic, low in density and considerably more explosive than regular crude oil, BBC reported. As of yesterday, rescuers had found one body that was believed to be one of the 32 missing oil tanker crew members - 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. Search for the missing was on, with 13 rescue vessels searching an area of 900 square nautical miles, while closely monitoring the condition of the burning oil tanker, the ministry said. The collision occurred around 8 PM on Saturday in waters about 160 nautical miles east of the Yangtze River estuary. All 21 crew members on the bulk freighter -- all Chinese nationals -- were rescued, according to the ministry.
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