KAGOSHIMA – All 34 crew members of an Indian-registered oil tanker that caught fire Saturday night in the East China Sea, west of Amami-Oshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, were found and rescued Sunday afternoon, the Japan Coast Guard quoted Chinese maritime authorities as reporting Sunday.
JCG officials said that around 3 p.m. the Chinese authorities informed them they had rescued the 34, all Indian nationals. The crew had been missing since their ship, the 26,450-ton Pratibha Yamuna, caught fire Saturday night in the East China Sea.
The ship, which did not carry any oil, was heading from South Korea toward China. JCG patrol boats had been searching the area since Sunday morning for the crew of the tanker but found nothing but two empty lifeboats.
The tanker is believed to have caught fire shortly before 7:20 p.m. Saturday. The JCG received a distress call from the tanker saying it was on fire in waters 550 kilometers west of the island of Amami-Oshima.
About an hour later, the crew of a cargo ship cruising in the area saw three people on the deck of the burning tanker, the JCG said.
The tanker crew told the cargo ship by radio that an explosion had occurred in the pump room, but the cargo ship lost contact with the tanker at around 8:50 p.m., the JCG said.
A Coast Guard aircraft that arrived at the scene around 11 p.m. that the fire was under control.
The JCG said the bridge and a large part of the tanker’s body near the bow were destroyed.
The JCG initially said there were 38 crew members aboard the Pratibha Yamuna, but later confirmed the figure as 34 via the ship’s owner in India.