BEIJING – Iranian rescue teams have travelled to China to join the ongoing operations looking for the 31 people missing after an accident involving an Iranian tanker in the East China Sea, the Chinese government said on Friday.
The oil tanker Sanchi – registered in Panama – caught fire after a collision with the Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter CF Crystal, on Saturday in the East China Sea, about 160 nautical miles east of the Yangtze River estuary.
“China remain open and welcome the efforts joined by other countries to rescue the ship and the crew,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang at a press conference on Friday.
“We have tried our best to search and rescue the crew members who are still missing. The Chinese rescuers approached the ship many times and risked their lives,” he added, amid criticism of the rescue operations and the time taken to extinguish the fire.
Initially 32 of the Sanchi’s sailors, 30 Iranians and 2 Bangladeshis, were missing, but on Monday, the body of one was discovered, which was recognized by Iranian authorities as one of its citizens.
However, the Iranian government has defended the Chinese authorities and refuted allegations that they have acted with negligence.
Lu stated that a team of Iranian rescue workers have arrived in Shanghai to join the operations as soon as possible.
An explosion occurred Wednesday on the tanker, which led to the suspension of the rescue work and the evacuation of the area for security reasons, although it resumed a day later.
The Sanchi, 274 meters (899 feet) in length, was transporting 136,000 tons of condensate, made up of a mixture of hydrocarbons recovered during the processing of natural gas, from Iran to South Korea.
According to the nonprofit Greenpeace on Wednesday, the condensate is very volatile and a large part of the oil would have been consumed in the fire; however that does not imply that it is not without environmental risks.