This handout picture, taken and released on January 12, 2018 by the Transport Ministry of China, shows the Chinese firefighting vessel “Donghaijiu 117” spraying foam on the burning oil tanker “Shanchi” at sea off the coast of eastern China. (Via AFP)
A Chinese rescue team has recovered two bodies from a still-burning Iranian oil tanker a week after it collided with a Chinese freighter vessel and caught fire in the East China Sea.
The bodies were discovered on the deck of the Panamanian-registered Sanchi oil tanker Saturday morning by the four-member rescue team wearing respirators, Chinese news outlets reported.
The rescuers further attempted to gain access to the living quarters of the ship — left adrift since it collided with freighter CF Crystal — but were prevented from doing so by the high temperatures of nearly 89 degrees Celsius on the blazing tanker.
According to reports, the rescue team was able to remain aboard the ship for less than 30 minutes and succeeded in retrieving its data recorder as well as video recordings, or “black box.”
Meanwhile, the cause of the collision is still a mystery.
Television footage of the rescue effort showed parts of the Sanchi still aflame, with its hull and superstructure completely stripped of paint as authorities remained concerned that the tanker may explode and sink, though there was no mention of such a possibility on Saturday.
The body of another mariner suspected to be from the burning tanker had been recovered on Monday and transferred to Shanghai for identification.
Crew members included 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. With the three bodies recovered so fat, 29 others remain unaccounted for.
The tanker ship was carrying a load of nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, a type of gassy, ultra-light oil that readily evaporates or burns off in a fire, reducing the possibility of a major oil spill.
Thirteen rescue vessels, including one from South Korea and two from Japan, were engaged in the rescue and cleanup operation on Saturday, spraying foam in a bid to extinguish the blaze.
However, intense fire, bad weather, and poor visibility have all hindered the rescue operations.