Beijing - An Iranian oil tanker ablaze off the Chinese coast is at risk of exploding or sinking, authorities said Monday, as they reported there was no sign of survivors 36 hours after the vessel erupted in flames.
A huge fire was still raging around the stricken ship, which had been carrying 136,000 tonnes of light oil, with fierce heat and thick black smoke billowing from the vessel and the surrounding sea.
Rescuers attempting to reach the crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis were being beaten back by toxic clouds, China's transportation ministry said.
The Panamanian-flagged 274-metre (899-foot) tanker Sanchi is "in danger of exploding or sinking," the ministry said.
The accident happened on Saturday evening 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai.
The tanker, operated by Iran's Glory Shipping, was heading to South Korea when it collided with a Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship, the CF Crystal, carrying 64,000 tonnes of grain.
Ten government vessels and "many fishing ships" were helping with the ongoing rescue and clean up effort, the transportation ministry said, adding that a South Korean coast guard ship was also on the scene.
A US Navy aircraft participated in the search on Sunday, scouring a large area before returning to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.
Iran's Petroleum Ministry said the tanker belongs to the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) and was delivering its cargo to South Korea's Hanwha Total. The ship and its cargo were insured, a statement said.
It was the second accident in less than two years involving a tanker owned by the NITC. In August 2016 an Iranian supertanker and a container ship collided in the Singapore Strait, causing damage to both vessels but no injuries or pollution.
Saturday's collision was the latest fatal maritime accident to hit East Asia in recent years.