The Iranian oil tanker Sanchi sank into the East China Sea on Sunday afternoon after a blast, causing a “serious” oil spill that covered 10 square kilometers (3.9 square miles), state television reported, citing China’s State Oceanic Administration.
The oil from the tanker was still burning, China Central Television reported Sunday. A State Oceanic Administration official reached by phone said the administration is collecting data from the spill area, and the administration said on its website that the spill will have an impact on the environment. All 32 crew members on board the vessel that had been burning for a week are presumed dead, said an Iranian official on Sunday.
The Sanchi was ferrying almost a million barrels of condensate — a highly flammable hydrocarbon liquid that is used in petrochemical production — when it collided with bulk carrier CF Crystal about 160 nautical miles off the coast of Shanghai on Jan. 6.
If all the condensate leaked into the sea instead of burning off, the spill would be one of the biggest from a ship over the past five decades. The cargo size of about 150,000 metric tons aboard the Sanchi exceeds the 35,000 tons of crude that the Exxon Valdez spilled near Alaska — the biggest such incident in U.S. history. That 1989 spill led to the destruction of thousands of marine fauna and long-term environmental damage.
CCTV aerial footage of the scene Sunday on the website of the South China Morning Post newspaper showed a large circular area of flames and thick black smoke.