China races to tackle expanding oil spill after tanker sinks

The Sanchi, carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil from Iran, went under on Sunday after a new and massive fire erupted, sending a cloud of black smoke as high as one kilometre above the East China Sea. The bodies of only three of the 32 crew members have been found since the vessel collided with the CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter, on January 6, sparking a fire that Chinese rescue ships struggled to extinguish. Iranian officials said there was no hope of finding survivors among the crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, prompting grief and anger among families of the sailors in Tehran. The search and rescue effort was cancelled and a clean-up operation began after a fire on the sea surface was finally extinguished on Monday, state broadcaster CCTV reported. Two ships sprayed chemical agents in an attempt to dissolve the oil, CCTV said. But China’s maritime authority warned late Monday that the oil spill was expanding, with “several” oil slicks observed that “were much bigger than the previous day”. Three separate slicks were easily visible from surveillance planes, up to 18.2 kilometres in length, China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said in a statement cited by Xinhua. The spill was likely to move northward due to wind and sea current, the SOA said. “This (clean-up) work is one of our focuses. It is also a priority area of our efforts. No one wants to see a large-scale secondary disaster,” said foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, adding… [Read full story]

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