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Rescue efforts to find 32 missing crew members have also been hampered by the spill.

China oil spill sparks fears of environmental disaster

Oil tanker on fireImage copyright Reuters
Image caption The crew of the vessel is still missing

There are fears of a growing environmental disaster in the East China Sea as a tanker continues to leak oil two days after colliding with a cargo ship.

The Sanchi tanker was still ablaze on Monday morning, reports said.

The crew, 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, remain missing.

The US Navy has sent a military aircraft to help China with the rescue efforts which have been hampered by the blaze and oil slick.

The extent of the spill and environmental hazard are still unclear.

The tanker had been carrying an ultra-light form of oil known as condensate which in the case of a spill can be more dangerous for the environment than regular crude.

“Condensate is more likely to evaporate and mix in with the water,” John Driscoll of JTD Energy Services told the BBC.

“It also can be colour- and odourless – so it is a lot harder to detect, contain and clean up.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionHuge plumes of smoke were seen rising from the tanker

Though Panama-registered, the Sanchi belongs to an Iranian company.

The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tonnes of Iranian oil when the vessel collided with a Chinese cargo ship on Saturday night, 165 nautical miles east of Shanghai.

The 21-strong crew of the Chinese ship were rescued.

China has sent several ships to carry out search-and-rescue operations while South Korea has also sent a coast guard ship and a helicopter.

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