Rescue boats resumed their search in choppy waters of the East China Sea on Thursday for any survivors from the stricken Iranian oil tanker that collided with a freight ship and burst into flames at the weekend, the Chinese government said.
"We believe flames would last for two weeks or a month considering previous cases of oil tank accidents", said official Park Sung-dong.
Extreme weather conditions-including strong winds, high waves, and toxic fumes-have so far hindered rescue efforts.
Concerns were growing that the tanker may explode and sink while a flotilla of 13 search and rescue vessels comb a 900-square-nautical-mile area around the ship for the crew. The cargo of about 1 million barrels is worth some $60 million. That reduces the chances of a crude-style oil slick.
An NITC spokesperson had previously suggested China might be more concerned with stopping a major oil leak in waters important to their fishing industry than rushing to save crew members.
He said that Chinese authorities turned down an offer from the Japanese Coast Guard to help, saying it would ask for help when needed. Shana said the oil had been purchased by South Korean customers.
Authorities and environmentalists worry the ship is increasingly vulnerable to breaking up and sinking the longer the blaze rages.
It is the second crash by an Iranian oil tanker to take place in 18 months, after an Iranian supertanker crashed with a container ship in the Singapore Strait back in July 2016. Despite much rescue efforts, the oil tanker is on fire and is feared to be on the verge of explosion.
Fuel oil is relatively easy to contain because volumes are lower and its viscosity means it's easier to extract from water, but even small volumes can hurt marine life.
Other relatives said they thought the fire should have been extinguished by now. "It's the stuff that spills and gets on birds".