2 Bodies, Black Box Recovered From Burning Iranian Vessel

2 Bodies, Black Box Recovered From  Burning Iranian Vessel2 Bodies, Black Box Recovered From  Burning Iranian Vessel

A Chinese salvage team recovered two bodies on Saturday from a stricken Iranian oil tanker that was still blazing a week after it caught fire and was left adrift following a collision in the East China Sea.

The four members of the salvage team wore respirators to board the Sanchi, where they found the two bodies on the deck, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.

They tried to get to the living quarters but were driven back by temperatures on the burning ship of around 89 Celsius, Xinhua said.

The body of a mariner suspected to be from the ship was recovered on Monday and sent to Shanghai for identification. The rest of the crew, which included 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis, remains missing.

The salvage team recovered the voyage data recorder, or “black box” from the bridge, before leaving the vessel less than half an hour after boarding because the wind had shifted and “thick toxic smoke” had complicated the operation.

The tanker Sanchi, run by Iran’s top oil shipping operator, National Iranian Tanker Company, collided on Saturday with the CF Crystal, carrying grain from the United States, about 160 nautical miles (300 km) off China’s coast near Shanghai.

The Sanchi was carrying 136,000 tons of condensate, an ultra-light crude that is highly flammable, to South Korea, equivalent to about 1 million barrels and worth about $60 million.

Before travelling to Shanghai late on Friday, Iran's Cooperatives Minister Ali Rabiei, who leads a special committee to investigate the incident, said a joint Iranian, Chinese and Japanese committee will be formed to speed up search and rescue efforts.

A spokesman for Japan's Coastguard told Reuters on Friday that strong winds had pushed the burning ship from the Chinese coast toward Japan's exclusive economic zone.

"Plans are in place to run DNA tests to identify the victims," Mohsen Bahrami, a spokesman for the Sanchi rescue committee at the National Iranian Tanker Company, said on Saturday.

"The identity of recovered bodies is still unknown. Unfortunately, China has a winding identification process, but we are firmly pursuing the matter," he told ISNA.

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