Rescue crews wrestle to contain China oil tanker fire; body of mariner found

This handout from the Transport Ministry of China taken on Sunday and released on Monday shows the Chinese firefighting vessel "DONGHAIJIU 117" spraying water on the burning oil tanker Sanchi at sea off the coast of eastern China. (AFP)
Updated 09 January 2018
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Rescue crews wrestle to contain China oil tanker fire; body of mariner found

BEIJING/SEOUL: Rescue crews wrestled to bring a blaze on an Iranian oil tanker off China’s east coast under control on Monday as fire raged for a second day following a collision with a grain ship, while the body of one of the 32 missing crew members was found on aboard.
Concerns were growing that the tanker, which hit a freight ship on Saturday night in the East China Sea and burst into flames, may explode and sink, the official China Central Television (CCTV) said on Monday, citing experts on the rescue team.
Poor weather continued to hamper the rescue work, Lu Kang, a spokesman at China’s foreign ministry, told a regular news briefing.
The size of the oil spill from the ship and the extent of the environmental harm were not known, but the disaster has the potential to be the worst since 1991 when 260,000 tons of oil leaked off the Angolan coast.
The remains of one of the 32 mariners on board was found on Monday afternoon, Iranian and Chinese officials confirmed.
Mohammad Rastad, head of Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization, was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying that the body had been sent to Shanghai for identification. The fate of the remaining 31 sailors is not known.
The Sanchi tanker (IMO:9356608) run by Iran's top oil shipping operator, National Iranian Tanker Co, collided with the CF Crystal (IMO:9497050) on Saturday evening about 160 nautical miles off China's coast near Shanghai and the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.
Chinese state media CCTV showed footage on Monday of a flotilla of boats dousing the flames with water as plumes of thick dark smoke continued to billow from the tanker.
One portion appeared to show the fire had been extinguished, although this could not be independently confirmed. China’s Ministry of Transport and Maritime Safety would not comment when asked if the fire was out.
“The Chinese government takes maritime accidents like this very seriously, and has already dispatched many search and rescue teams to the scene to carry out search and rescue,” said the foreign ministry’s Lu said.
China sent four rescue ships and three cleaning boats to the site, South Korea dispatched a ship and a helicopter, while a US Navy military aircraft searched an area of about 3,600 square nautical miles (12,350 sq km) for crew members.
The Panama-registered tanker was sailing from Iran to South Korea, carrying 136,000 tons of condensate, an ultra-light and highly volatile crude. That is equivalent to just under 1 million barrels, worth about $60 million, based on global crude oil prices.
Ship tracking data shows the collision occurred in waters not frequently used by large vessels like tankers, dry-bulk carriers or container ships. Most ships travel either closer to the Chinese coast in the west or more nearby to Japan in the east.
The freight ship, which was carrying US grain, suffered limited damage and the 21 crew members, all Chinese nationals, were rescued.
China's Transport Ministry said the CF Crystal were being taken to the port of Luhuashan, just south of Shanghai, where authorities will start an investigation into the cause of the incident.
Lu said it was too soon to discuss how victims of the disaster may be compensated, and that compensation and other questions would be addressed after an investigation into the accident is complete.
Bad weather made it hard for the rescue crews to get access to the tanker, but toxic gas from the burning oil posed a major risk.
When condensate meets water, it evaporates quickly and can cause a large-scale explosion as it reacts with air and turns into a flammable gas, the transportation ministry said on Monday.


Trump warnings grow from forgotten Republicans

Updated 3 min 17 sec ago
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Trump warnings grow from forgotten Republicans

  • Whether members of Congress, governors or state party leaders, they are struggling to fit into President Donald Trump’s Republican Party
  • Fact checkers have recorded an extraordinary level of false and misleading statements flowing out of the White House

NEW YORK: The ranks of forgotten Republicans are growing.
Some were forced out, such as Tim Pawlenty, a former two-term Minnesota governor who lost this week’s bid for a political comeback. Some, such as the retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chose to leave on their own. Others still serve, but with a muted voice.
Whether members of Congress, governors or state party leaders, they are struggling to fit into President Donald Trump’s Republican Party.
The expanding list of marginalized GOP leaders underscores how thoroughly Trump has dominated — and changed — the Republican Party in the nearly two years since he seized the presidency. The overwhelming majority of elected officials, candidates and rank-and-file voters now follow the president with extraordinary loyalty, even if he strays far from the values and traditions many know and love.
The Republicans left behind are warning their party with increasing urgency, though it’s unclear whether anyone’s listening.
“I hope this is a very temporary place for the Republican Party,” said Corker. “I hope that very soon we will return to our roots as a party that’s very different, especially in tone, from we’ve seen coming out of the White House.”
The forgotten Republicans — people like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — have been unwilling to sit quietly as Trump steers the GOP away from free trade, fiscal responsibility, consistent foreign policy and civility.
Isolation and political exile have been their rewards.
Their diminished roles leave fewer Republican leaders willing to challenge Trump under any circumstances, even in his darkest moments.
Fact checkers have recorded an extraordinary level of false and misleading statements flowing out of the White House. And beyond dishonesty, some of the forgotten have decried a disturbing pattern of racially charged rhetoric on issues like immigration, NFL anthem protests and Confederate monuments.
“White nationalism isn’t something I’m ever going to be comfortable with. But it is embraced by, or simply doesn’t bother, a lot of Republicans,” said former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges, once a Trump confidant who was forced from his leadership post after criticizing Trump in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.
After Trump’s victory, Borges returned to practicing law, while he continues to play a modest role in local politics.
“To me, it became a matter of how much of your soul are you willing to sell. I would be the wrong person to be leading this party right now,” Borges said.
Trump remains popular among rank-and-file Republicans. And the vast majority of Republican candidates across the country this midterm season are pledging unconditional loyalty — and being rewarded with primary victories.
Gallup found that 82 percent of Republicans approved of the president’s job performance earlier this month. That’s compared to just 34 percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats.
Kasich, who has not ruled out a primary bid against Trump in 2020, said the president’s approval is misleading because the universe of people identifying as Republican is shrinking.
“We’re dealing with a remnant of the Republican Party. The party is not what it was,” Kasich said in an interview.
The term-limited governor said he’s content to focus quietly on addressing issues like the opioid epidemic and urban violence on a bipartisan basis while the Trump-led GOP focuses on partisan squabbling.
“Let those in the Republican Party who want to be ideological and partisan, let them wallow in their own failures,” said Kasich.
Other GOP leaders aren’t feeling quite so emboldened.
Pawlenty’s quest for a third term collapsed after Republican primary voters determined his experience — and his years-old description of Trump as “unfit and unhinged” — weren’t welcome.
Pawlenty politely declined to be interviewed, but a former aide, Alex Conant, said this week’s result, like other primary elections this year, sent a clear message about the modern GOP.
“There’s not a lot of room for dissent in the Republican Party right now,” Conant said. “Moderates don’t feel welcome. And if you’re not loyal to Trump, there’s not necessarily room for you.”
The details may be different, but Pawlenty’s unexpected exit is reminiscent of other public officials who have struggled to find their footing in the Trump era.
Bush, another Trump critic, declined to comment for this story. He has been forced into silence, at least in part, for fear of hurting his son’s political career. In June, Donald Trump Jr. withdrew from a fundraiser for Texas land commissioner George P. Bush after Jeb Bush criticized the president’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families at the border.
Another periodic Trump critic, former House Speaker John Boehner, is in the midst of a 20-stop bus tour to help raise money for vulnerable House Republicans.
Just don’t ask whom he’s raising money for.
Spokesman David Schnittger said it was up to each of the campaigns involved to disclose Boehner’s help. “I’m not sure anyone has exercised that option to date,” he said.
Boehner’s successor, Paul Ryan, has seen his once sky-high career prospects flounder in the Trump era. The 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee has occasionally criticized Trump, but he is retiring at the end of the year.
In South Carolina, Republican Congressman Mark Sanford narrowly lost his June primary hours after Trump tweeted he had been “very unhelpful” and highlighted the congressman’s extramarital affair.
Days later, Sanford described Trumpism as “a cancerous growth.” As he prepares to leave Congress, he’s warning the GOP the cancer is spreading.
“We have a president that will tell numerous dis-truths in the course of a day, yet that’s not challenged,” Sanford said in an interview. “What’s cancerous here is in an open political system, there has to be some measure of objective truth.”
“I’m baffled by the way so many people have looked the other way,” he said.
Asked whether he feels like he fits in today’s GOP, Sanford said simply, “No.”
Back in Ohio, Borges vowed that his departure from politics was only temporary.
“The Trump phenomenon is going to end at some point in time. That might be six years, that might be two years, that might be sooner. No one knows,” the former Ohio GOP chairman said. “When it does end, it’s the job of a lot of us ... to make sure that the party is still populated by good, honest, decent candidates and officeholders who we can continue to be proud of.”