BEIJING, China - The Panama-registered Sanchi oil tanker, that was carrying 136,000 tons or around 1 million barrels of oil from Iran to South Korea is said to have exploded in the East China Sea.
Chinese authorities said that parts of the oil tanker, that has been ablaze for days off the coast of Shanghai exploded on Wednesday, forcing rescue boats searching for 31 missing sailors to retreat.
The oil tanker collided with the Hong Kong-registered CF Crystal freighter in the East China Sea on Saturday evening.
Since then, the tanker has been ablaze and drifting in the waters between Shanghai and southern Japan.
On Monday, Chinese authorities had warned that the vessel could explode.
According to officials, 30 Iranian and two Bangladeshi sailors were onboard during the collision and so far, none of the survivors from the tanker have been found but mysteriously, only one body has been recovered.
China's Ministry of Transport said that the CF-Crystal had been transporting food from the U.S. to the Chinese province of Guangdong, and that it had 21 crew members on board during the collision and all of them had been rescued.
The ministry further noted that 14 vessels were searching for the missing sailors in the tanker's vicinity before the explosion.
While the extent of the spill remains unclear, cleanup boats are also on hand to deal with light crude spilled in the accident.
Later on Wednesday, images of the tanker showed thick plumes of black smoke rising from the vessel, as other boats tried to extinguish the flames with water jets.
According to the ship-tracking site marinetraffic.com, the Sanchi, with a length of 900 feet and displacing more than 85,000 tons, is almost as big as the U.S. Navy's Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.
In a statement, Iran's Shana news agency said that the Sanchi’s cargo was worth around $60 million and the oil it was carrying had been purchased by South Korean customers.