China's transport ministry has confirmed it has resumed firefighting operations and continues the search for 31 missing seafarers as the fire on board the stricken Iranian-owned Sanchi tanker rages for the sixth consecutive day.
A statement concerning the incident from China's Ministry of Transport said it "continued to organise full search and rescue work on site” and “continued the non-stop search for crew" who have been listed as missing since Sanchi collided with bulk carrier CF Crystal on 6 January and burst into flame.
Firefighting operations were suspended on Wednesday (10 January), after an explosion rocked the vessel. The transport ministy said two vessels were back on hand to attempt to douse the blaze with foam, while a third was resupplying the vessels by transporting foam from port in Shanghai.
In the video above, posted to YouTube on 12 January by the English language arm of the Chinese state-owned China Central Television, deputy director of the Shanghai Maritime Bureau Xie Qunwei explained that the scale of the conflagration onboard Sanchi has "used up almost all our foam from Shanghai" forcing the maritime body to request additional foam from a neighbouring province.
When the collision occured, the ships were in transit some 260 km off the coast of Shanghai, but the Chinese transport ministry said Sanchi had drifted “about 65 nautical miles southeast of the collision location” by Wednesday evening. Multiple reports have since put the tanker in Japanese waters and the Japanese Coast Guard is said to be monitoring the situation.
The ministry statement also confirmed a Japanese maritime police vessel had attended the fire.
Difficult weather and sea conditions have hampered search efforts in recent days with only one body recovered – that of an Iranian national that Sanchi's owners National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) believe to be one of the vessel's crew. The remaining crew from Sanchi – 29 Iranians and 2 Bangladeshis – are listed as missing, and the transport ministry confirmed Monday (8 January) that 21 Chinese crew from CF Crystal had all been rescued.
Previous statements from China's transport ministry have said the toxicity of the smoke and fierce heat generated by the burning ultra-light crude oil condensate carried by Sanchi (see video above and photo below) has hampered rescue workers, who have been forced to wear biohazard "protective suits, protective masks and [use] gas testing equipment".
Mr Xie confirmed the danger, saying "the rescuers understand the health risks, but we're not giving up".
An official from South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries was quoted in a Reuters report as saying the fire could last for weeks.