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Oil spill off China coast now the size of Paris

Oil spill off China coast now the size of Paris

Oil spill off China coast now the size of Paris

Satellites watching over the remains of Iranian tanker Sanchi, which sank days ago with all hands on deck off the coast of China, are revealing a unsafe legacy: several large slicks that stretch for miles in the East China Sea.

Officials are calling it "the worst oil spill disaster in decades" and comparing it to a tanker spill in 1991, when 260,000 tonnes of oil leaked off the East African coast of Angola.

The Panama-registered oil tanker Sanchi, carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil from Iran, collided with the CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter, about 300 km east of the Yangtze estuary on January 6.

China's State Oceanic Administration said today that, "Interpretation of the satellite remote sensing data found that on the 17th, the area covered by the images covered four diffuse spill belts with a total area of about 101 square kilometers, of which the area with the largest spill was about 48 square kilometers".

The SOA said vessels had taken 31 water samples in the area around the wreck containing black grease with heavy oil smells, and a concentration of petroleum that exceeds some seawater quality standard limits. The tanker was carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil at the time of the collision, the cause of which remains unknown. All crew members, 30 from Iran and two from Bangladesh, are presumed dead.

All 21 crew members of the freighter were reported safe.

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The ship burned prior to its sinking. The bodies of two sailors were recovered from the ship while a third body was pulled from the sea near the vessel.

The transport ministry said late Wednesday the vessel lay at a depth of around 115 metres (50 feet) and that robots would be deployed to explore the shipwreck.

"The marine ecological environment has been affected, "said the SOA".

The type of condensate oil carried by the Sanchi does not form a traditional surface slick when spilt, but is nonetheless highly toxic to marine life and much harder to separate from water.

The collision site was within the Zhoushan shipping ground, considered to be one of the richest fishing grounds in China, Ma Jun, one of China's leading environmentalists said.

It is also on the migratory pathway of numerous marine mammals, such as humpback and gray whales.

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