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.


Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

Updated 17 min 26 sec ago
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Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

WASHINGTON: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday excoriated her political nemesis, President Donald Trump, for “outing” her commercial trip to Afghanistan after barring her from using a military aircraft, forcing her to scrap it entirely over security concerns.
The brawl between the no-nonsense Republican leader and the take-no-prisoners Democrat — who is now just two heartbeats away from the presidency — is the latest round in their shutdown showdown.
The federal government has been shuttered for four weeks over Trump’s insistence that a wider budget measure include billions of dollars for a wall on the border with Mexico — and Pelosi’s refusal to do so.
Their spat spilled into the diplomatic arena on Thursday when, after Pelosi suggested that Trump postpone his State of the Union address until the government reopens, the president grounded her military flight.
Pelosi accused Trump of being “very irresponsible” in breaching security protocol.
“We had a report from Afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it’s just a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming,” she told reporters.
The administration strongly denies that it “leaked” any plans about the trip to a war zone.
“The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat-out lie,” a senior White House official said.
The US government shutdown, which has left about 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck, is now the longest in the country’s history — and there is no sign of a compromise.
The Office of Management and Budget reportedly issued a memorandum saying that “under no circumstance during a government shutdown” can a congressional delegation use government aircraft for travel.
However, Republican Representative Lee Zeldin led a delegation to Iraq and other countries since the shutdown began.
Pelosi’s office sounded off on the administration’s handling of her trip, which had not been announced for security reasons.
The State Department released an updated assessment stressing that Trump’s announcement of the Pelosi travel “had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said.
“This morning, we learned that the administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.”
Democratic lawmakers have expressed outrage.
“As a former member of the Intelligence Committee who has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan, disclosing ANY Members’ travel into a war zone is disgraceful and dangerous,” tweeted House Democrat Jan Schakowsky.
“This is unprecedented.”
Trump lashed out at Pelosi once again on Twitter, asking why she and other Democrats would leave the country “on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid.”
And then his re-election campaign team released a tongue-in-cheek shutdown-related campaign fundraising request.
For a contribution of $20.20, a reference to the next election year, the campaign told supporters it would send a fake red brick to Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — to build a wall.