Beijing : Thirty-two crew members, mostly Iranians, have gone missing after a tanker carrying oil from Iran to South Korea collided with a cargo ship and caught fire off coast of east China, reports PTI.

The Panama-registered oil tanker, carrying 136,000 tonnes of oil condensate, was ablaze after it collided with a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter at around 8 pm on Saturday, leaving its crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis missing, China’s transport ministry said in a statement. All 21 Chinese crew members on the bulk freighter have been rescued.

The 274-meter-long oil tanker SANCHI, owned by an Iranian shipping company, was heading to South Korea with its cargo.

It caught fire after the collision and was still ablaze, Xinhua news agency quoted the ministry as saying.

The ministry said oil spilled into the sea, but did not specify the area of contamination.

“The Sanchi is still floating and continues to burn, there is oil on the sea surface; search and rescue operations are rushing and underway,” the ministry said in a statement.

The 225-meter-long second vessel CF CRYSTAL, carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain, was partly damaged in the collision.

It is owned by a Chinese shipping company and was travelling from the United States to Guangdong, China.

Chinese maritime authorities have sent eight ships for the search and rescue operation and South Korea has sent a plane and a 3,000-tonne coastguard ship to help.

Chinese maritime authorities have dispatched eight vessels, including three specialised cleansing vessels, for search and rescue.

After coordination by the China Maritime Search and Rescue Centre, South Korea dispatched a coast guard ship and a fixed-wing aircraft to assist in the search and rescue operation.

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