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32 sailors missing after oil tanker collides with ship near Shanghai

By Brooks Hays

Jan. 7 (UPI) -- An Iranian oil tanker is engulfed in flames and 32 sailors are missing after the tanker collided with a Chinese freighter in the East China Sea on Saturday night.

The tanker's crew included 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshi men. They remain missing.

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"Sanchi is floating and burning," China's ministry of transport reported. "There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts."

The tanker was still on fire as of 1 p.m. local time on Sunday.

All 21 of the bulk carrier's crew -- all Chinese nationals -- were safely rescued.

According the ship-tracking site Marine Traffic, Sanchi was en route to Daesan, South Korea. The tanker was carrying 136,000 tons of Iranian oil, a cargo worth $60 million.

The tanker has operated under five different names since its construction was completed in 2008. According to the International Maritime Organization, Sanchi's current owner is Hong Kong-based Bright Shipping Ltd, but the ship was being leased to the National Iranian Tanker Co.

Massive plumes of smoke and spilled oil are making rescue efforts difficult. Specialized rescue vessels were deployed to limit the size and scope of the oil spill.

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"The East China Sea is shared by China, South Korea and also some of the southern islands of Japan," Al Jazeera's Rob McBride reported. "There will be a lot of concern in all of those countries about any developing slick and which direction it may be heading."

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