Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Even after parts of it exploded, and while it's still on fire, an Iranian diplomat said Thursday the crew on the oil tanker Sanchi may yet be alive.
An Iranian crude oil tanker, Sanchi, collided with Chinese freighter CF Crystal during the weekend. Sanchi was carrying about 1 million barrels of an ultra-light form of oil called condensate to South Korea when it hit the Chinese freighter, loaded with grain from the United States.
The tanker has been burning since the weekend and sections of it exploded on Wednesday. So far, only one body from the 32-person crew has been recovered.
"If the crew had a chance to run to the bottom of the ship, they might be still alive," he said.
Parts of the listing Sanchi are below the water line and shielded by the fire, and cool enough for any potential survivors, the diplomat said earlier this week.
Chinese authorities called response operations back after the explosion on Wednesday. Response operations were hampered Tuesday by high waves and heavy winds.
After meeting with a special investigatory committee formed by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, its spokesman, Mohammad Rastad, said that poisonous gas, Wednesday's explosion and oil pollution were complicating the response.
Without offering specifics, the Iranian government said it invited six world countries to join the response operations under way off the eastern coast of China. If it gets the proper permission, the Iranian deputy foreign minister said Iran would take the highest response risk if necessary.
There's no indication so far on the extent of the potential volume spilled or level of pollution, though it could be severe.
The worst maritime spill of this kind occurred when 2.1 million barrels of oil leaked from the Atlantic Empress off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago in 1979