SHANGHAI, China — The Iranian oil tanker Sanchi exploded and sank into the East China Sea Sunday after burning for more than a week as the stranded vessel floated powerless off the coast of China. Mahmoud Rastad, the chief of Iran’s maritime agency, acknowledged there was “no hope” of missing sailors surviving the disaster, according to the Associated Press.
The collision and a daring multinational rescue effort to retrieve the 32 men aboard the Sanchi had transfixed an Iran still reeling from weeks of protests and violent clashes with armed police that swept the country at the start of the year.
Families of the perished sailors wept at the headquarters of the National Iranian Tanker Co. in Tehran, the private company that owns the Sanchi. Some were taken by ambulance to nearby hospitals as they were so overwhelmed by the news.
The Sanchi collided with the CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter, on January 6, about 160 miles (260 km) off the coast of Shanghai. China, India and Japan were among the countries who attempted to rescue the crew members aboard the beleaguered vessel, but dangerously foul weather made it impossible to retrieve them before the tragic explosion occurred. The cause of the collision is still unknown, but the ship was in waters not typically traversed by large vessels, which tend to travel closer to the Chinese coast or nearer to Japan.