Thirty-two missing after oil tanker collision in 'new Bermuda triangle'

Thirty-two people are missing after an oil tanker collided with a ship in a region of the East China sea being labelled the 'new Bermuda Triangle'.

One million barrels of Iranian oil were on board the Panama-registered tanker, The Sanchi, when it collided with a Hong Kong freight ship, sparking a huge fire following the impact, with fears the oil will cause an environmental disaster after leaking into the sea off Shanghai.

Bulk carrier CF Crystal, carrying grain from the US, hit South Korea-bound The Sanchi at around 9pm on January 6, 300km from China's east coast.

The region is being dubbed the 'new Bermuda Triangle' because of the number of ships that have gone amiss there.

This incident is the latest to hit the troubled stretch of sea with at least 33 ships lost in the area in 2016, German newspaper Die Welt reported.

“In this day and age with anti-collision systems, radar, with ship identification systems, two enormous ships like this should not collide,” oceanography expert Dr Simon Boxall, of the University of Southampton, told ABC Radio.

“Particularly seeing as they weren’t in a narrow channel, there wasn’t restricted navigation, there was no excuse for this accident to occur.”

“The main priority is finding the missing crew members of The Sanchi, but a big concern is the blaze and the oil aboard the ship,” Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride said.

The oil tanker remains on fire and could sink off the coast of Shanghai. Source: People's Daily China
The oil tanker remains on fire and could sink off the coast of Shanghai. Source: People's Daily China

Bad weather along with thick smoke from the wreckage has hampered ongoing rescue attempts as 30 Iranians and two Bengalese nationals remain unaccounted for.

The missing personnel were all on board the The Sanchi tanker which remains afloat but has potential to sink, News Corp reported.

According to the Ministry of Transport of the People’s Republic of China, CF Crystal was damaged without jeopardising the safety of the vessel, and 21 crew members were rescued safely.

An international rescue is underway with four Chinese rescue ships and three cleaning ships sent to the crash shite, as well as vessels and aircrafts from South Korea.

A US aircraft has also been deployed to assist the rescue.