2 bodies recovered from burning oil tanker in East China Sea

BEIJING — Rescuers on Saturday recovered the bodies of two crew members of an Iranian oil tanker that's been on fire since colliding with a freighter last week in the East China Sea.

The bodies were found on the lifeboat deck of the Sanchi on Saturday morning, state broadcaster CCTV said. Rescuers stayed aboard less than 30 minutes but were able to recover the ship's data and video recordings, it said.

The network said rescuers were prevented from entering the crew living quarters by temperatures as high as 89 degrees Celsius (192 Fahrenheit).

Footage of the rescue showed parts of the Sanchi still aflame, its hull and superstructure completely stripped of paint. Authorities were concerned the ship could explode and sink but there was no word on Saturday on such a possibility.

The cause of the collision remains unclear. One body was recovered from the sea earlier this week, leaving 29 crew members still unaccounted for. The crew was all Iranian expect for two Bangladeshis.

Thirteen ships, including one from South Korea and two from Japan, were engaged in the rescue and cleanup effort Saturday, spraying foam in an effort to extinguish the fire. The tanker was carrying a cargo of nearly 1 million barrels of condensate, a type of gassy, ultra-light oil that readily evaporates or burns off in a fire, reducing the chance of a major oil spill.

Intense flames, bad weather and poor visibility have all hampered rescue efforts.

The Chinese freighter CF Crystal that collided with the Panamanian-registered tanker had 21 crew members, who all were reported safe.

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