After more than a week burning in the South China Sea, an oil tanker that collided with a freighter has sunk. Three bodies were recovered this week but authorities say there is now “no hope” of finding survivors.

A rescue ship works to extinguish the fire on the burning Iranian oil tanker Sanchi

An Iranian oil tanker that had been burning in the South China Sea after crashing into a freighter over a week ago burst into flames and sank on Sunday, with authorities saying there was “no hope” of finding survivors.

Around midday (local time) on Sunday, the ship which had been burning since January 6 “suddenly ignited,” with the entire vessel burning fiercely from end-to-end and a cloud of smoke around 800-1,000 meters (2624-3280 feet) high, China’s Transport Ministry said.

Read more: Burning tanker in East China Sea ‘in danger of exploding’

The ship, named Sanchi, later sank, the Chinese state official news agency Xinhua cited the State Oceanic Administration as saying.

Authorities had previously expressed concern over the possibility of the tanker exploding.

Only three bodies were recovered from the burning vessel during rescue operations, with 29 crew members still unaccounted for. The crew was all Iranian expect for two Bangladeshis.

The 'Sanchi' oil tanker bursts into flames in the South China Sea. (Reuters/China Daily)The 274-meter-long (898 feet) ‘Sanchi’ oil tanker burst into flames and sank on Sunday, after more than a week burning at sea

‘No hope’ of survivors

“There is no hope of finding survivors among the members of the crew,” Mohammad Rastad, spokesman for the Iranian rescue team dispatched to Shanghai, told Iran’s state broadcaster in Tehran before the tanker went down.

Rastad said information from members of the crew on board the freighter that the tanker collided with suggested all the personnel on the Sanchi were killed in the first hour of the accident “due to the explosion and the release of gas.”

Read more: Bodies found on burning oil tanker in East China Sea

Two bodies recovered on Saturday morning were found on the lifeboat deck of the Panama-registered boat, state CCTV reported, in a rescue attempt that also saw the rescue team manage to retrieve the ship’s data and video recordings.

Another body suspected to be from the ship was recovered from the sea on Monday and brought to Shanghai for identification.

Read more: Nearly 70 killed in Nigeria fuel tanker blaze

Rescue efforts on Saturday had been hampered by temperatures of up to 89 degrees Celsius (192 degrees Fahrenheit), which meant the rescue team was unable to continue the search for missing people in the crew’s living quarters.

Large amount of oil still burning

China’s State Oceanic Administration on Sunday said that because the hull of the ship had detonated, a large amount of oil in surrounding waters was on fire, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The Administration said it would expand the scope of its monitoring and “quickly ascertain the spread and drift of overflowing oil” from the wrecked ship.

The Hong Kong-registered cargo ship that the Sanchi collided with, which was carrying grain, suffered some damage but “without jeopardizing the safety of the ship,” the ministry said. The 21 Chinese crew aboard the vessel were all rescued.

The cause of the collision is still unclear.

Graphic comparing major oil tanker spills

law/jlw (AP, Reuters)

COURTESY: DW

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