China Says 32 People, Mostly Iranians, Missing After Oil Tanker Collision

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A tanker has collided with a bulk carrier in the East China Sea, leaving 32, the entire tanker crew, missing.

Earlier Sunday, Chinese state media carried pictures of the tanker on fire with large plumes of smoke.

CF Crystal's 21 Chinese crew members were rescued and the ship suffered "non-critical" damage, the ministry reports.

The Chinese vessel, carrying grain from the U.S., suffered minor damage "without jeopardising the safety of the ship".

South Korea has also sent a ship and helicopter to help, Reuters reported.

The tanker is now on fire and is spilling its cargo into the sea, authorities have said. The Crystal's crew members were all Chinese nationals. The ship was carrying nearly a million barrels of condensate, an ultra light crude oil. Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate, base oil, worth $60m.

The Sanchi has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according the United Nations -run International Maritime Organization.

The tanker had been sailing to Daesan, South Korea from Kharg Island, Iran, according to Reuters ship tracking data.

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China's Ministry of Transport said the missing people are its crew - 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.

"We have no information on their fate", he said.

The Panama-registered Sanchi tanker is seen ablaze in open waters, after colliding with a Chinese bulk ship, January 7, 2018.

He further said that the tanker was leased by a South Korean company. "We can not say all of them have died, because rescue teams are there and providing services".

Hanwha Total was not immediately available for comment.

The AP reports that this is the second collision for the National Iranian Tanker Company in less than two years.

There was a collision involving an NITC-operated supertanker in the Singapore Strait in August 2016, but there was no loss of life or pollution.

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