Stricken Iranian oil tanker continues to explode

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The rescue operations of the 31 crew members of the Iranian oil tanker on the day of the epiphany in the China Sea after a collision with a Hong Kong cargo ship were resumed in impossible conditions.

This has increased concerns that the ship may break up and sink.

Satellite footage of the ship indicates that the strength of the blaze has decreased since the collision on Saturday, although strong winds have already pushed it 50 kilometers further from the Chinese coastline.

Dozens of the rescue boats were forced to retreat from dousing the tanker with foam on Wednesday due to an explosion.

China's state-run media said the vessel is carrying about 140,000 tons of petroleum products.

Amami Oshima is one of the northern islands in the Ryukyu islands chain that includes Okinawa.

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The tanker Sanchi, owned by Iran's top oil shipping operator National Iranian Tanker Co, was carrying nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, an ultra-light, highly flammable crude oil, to South Korea.

Earlier it was reported that the tanker SANCHI belonging to Iranian companies and sailing under the Panamanian flag, collided on 6 January with the Hong Kong bulk carrier CF CRYSTAL off the East coast of China on the evening of 6 January.

A Japanese coastguard spokesman said: "We offered support for efforts to deal with the accident but the Chinese side said they will handle the case by themselves".

The vessel is drifting to the southwest at a speed of 2.2 km (1.4 miles) per hour, the Coast Guard said. Aboard the oil tanker were a total of 32 people, 30 of them are Iranian citizens and two crew members from Bangladesh.

All are missing, but the body of a mariner suspected to be from the ship was recovered on Monday.