Iranian oil tanker sinks after explosion shoots flames up to 1km high

Ministry of Transport a rescue ship sails near the burning Iranian oil tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea off the eastern coast of China

All 32 crew members on board an Iranian oil tanker that caught fire on January 6 after colliding with a freighter off China's east coast are dead.

Meanwhile, commander of the Chinese rescue teams has played down hopes about survival of the crew.

Four salvage workers boarded the board SANCHI at 8:37 am on January 13, and found two bodies on deck in a lifeboat. CGTN also said the ship's voice data recorder, which functions like "black boxes" on aircraft, had been recovered.

He said that due to repeated explosions and gas leaks, rescue teams were unable to extinguish the fire on the vessel and recover the bodies.

The Sanchi tanker has been ablaze since it collided with Hong Kong-registered freight ship CF Crystal, 185 miles off China's coast near Shanghai.

Television footage Saturday showed parts of the Sanchi still aflame, its hull and superstructure completely stripped of paint.

Chinese rescuers find two bodies on burning oil tanker
BREAKING: Burning oil tanker sinks at sea with 32 crew members dead

There are 13 vessels near where the collision took place, including two Japanese ships and a South Korean one.

The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tons of condensate, worth some $60 million, and bound for the Republic of Korea.

Intense flames, bad weather and poor visibility have all hampered rescue efforts.

The tanker has operated under five different names since it was built in 2008, according to the United Nations -run International Maritime Organization.

Following the incident, 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis who were working on the oil tanker went missing.

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