Fears of Environmental Disaster After Oil Tanker Collision

The oil tanker that set fire after colliding with a freight ship off the east coast of China may explode and sink, possibly putting the environment and human health at risk, experts warned.

The Iranian tanker was carrying 150,000 tons, or nearly 1 million barrels, of condensate crude oil when it collided with the CF Crystal on Saturday. Condensate is an ultra-light hydrocarbon that is highly toxic and much more explosive than regular crude oil.

The size of the oil spill from the ship and the extent of the environmental harm are currently unknown but the disaster has the potential to be the worst since the ABT Summer spill off the Angolan coast in 1991, Reuters noted.

Chinese authorities have since dispatched three cleaning boats to the site. Search and rescue are also underway for the 32 crew members that have gone missing after the collision in the mouth of the Yangtze River Delta.

"First and foremost, Greenpeace hopes that the search and rescue operations of the Chinese coast guard go smoothly and the 32 missing crew will be found," said Greenpeace East Asia campaigner Rashid Kang.

But the environmental organization is also concerned about the potential environmental damage that could be caused by the release of the oil on board.

"We are worried about the potential environmental impact that could be caused by leakage from the vessel that was holding almost 42 million gallons of crude oil. A clean up procedure is already underway and we will be monitoring its....

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