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China says claims of inadequate rescue of sunken oil tanker "untrue, irresponsible"

17 January 2018, 02:05 | Katrina Lee

A large plume of smoke emanates from the Sanchi in the East China Sea on Sunday January 14. Chinese Ministry of Transport via AP

A large plume of smoke emanates from the Sanchi in the East China Sea on Sunday January 14.   Chinese Ministry of Transport via AP

Chinese ships are racing to clean up a giant oil spill after an Iranian tanker sank in the East China Sea.

The cause of the January 6 collision between the Sanchi and the Chinese freighter CF Crystal, which happened 257 kilometres east of Shanghai, remains unclear.

According to the Japan Coast Guard, the slick has narrowed and elongated. On January 8 the bulker was escorted by a rescue vessel into Zhoushan, south of Shanghai, where it is now moored.

The crew of the Sanchi are all Iranian nationals except for two Bangladeshi citizens.

The East China Sea is known for its rich, although already polluted, marine ecosystem that includes whales, porpoises and seabirds, said Rick Steiner, a USA marine scientist with experience of oil spills.

"At this time of year the area is used as a wintering ground by common edible species such as hairtail, yellow croaker, chub mackerel and blue crab", Greenpeace said in a statement on Monday.

The incident began earlier this month when an Iranian oil tanker carrying one-million barrels of light crude collided with a Hong Kong cargo ship.

Zhao, who is deputy head of the ministry's press office, said new photos and video footage showed the fire had gone out entirely and said an investigation into the disaster would be conducted according to the "strictest worldwide standards".

Authorities had previously expressed concern over the possibility of the tanker exploding. The ship's last confirmed location was about 315 km (195 miles) west of Sokkozaki on the island of Amami Oshima.

A rescue ship sails near the burning Sanchi.   Chinese Ministry of Transport via AP
A rescue ship sails near the burning Sanchi. Chinese Ministry of Transport via AP

The tanker that had been burning for more than a week sank on Sunday, the Chinese Transportation Ministry said.

The Shanghai Maritime Bureau said these, along with a South Korean patrol boat, were among the vessels carrying out emergency response work on Monday.

A Chinese salvage team was able to board the tanker and recover two bodies from the over the weekend.

The Sanchi oil tanker sank yesterday and officials say all its crew members are dead.

Crews also recovered the vessel's data recorder, known commonly as a black box.

Foreign media reports had said that the accident happened 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai.

Lu said rescue and cleanup efforts had been a focus for China from the beginning, but that Beijing welcomed "other relevant parties" to participate in both the search and rescue and treatment work.

Strong winds, high waves and toxic gases are hindering dozens of rescue boats struggling to locate missing sailors from a stricken in the and to extinguish a fire that has burned for the past three days on the ship.

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