China Says 32 People, Mostly Iranians, Missing After Oil Tanker Collision

Coast Guard vessel ICGS Rajkamal reached the spot at around 5 PM and rescued the 11 crew members of cargo ship ITT Panther which sank off the coast of the Andaman islands

The tanker's 32 crew members including 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshi sailors were missing in the incident.

CF Crystal's 21 Chinese crew members were rescued and the ship suffered "non-critical" damage, the ministry reports.

Chinese authorities have dispatched eight ships for the search and rescue operation, while South Korea have sent a plane and coastguard ship to help. Its rescued crew are all Chinese nationals, the country's Transport Ministry said.

The ship spilled some of its cargo of 136,000 tons of oil condensate and was floating while still on fire early on January 7.

It was carrying a $60m (£44m) cargo equivalent to slightly under a million barrels.

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

An official in Iran's Oil Ministry, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said 30 of the tanker's 32 crew members were Iranians.

The tanker had been sailing to Daesan, South Korea from Kharg Island, Iran, according to Reuters ship tracking data.

"We have no information on their fate", he told the news agency.

In 2016 one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the busy Singapore Strait, though that incident caused no injuries or oil spill. A Korean Coast Guard official confirmed the tanker was still on fire at 1 p.m. (0500 GMT). "There is an oil slick and we are pushing forward with rescue efforts", said China's ministry of transportation in a statement.

Hanwa Total is a 50-50 partnership between the Seoul-based Hanwha Group and the French oil giant Total.

The incident marked the first major maritime incident involving an Iranian tanker since the lifting of global sanctions on Iran in January 2016.