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Authorities work against the clock to clean up the oil spill off the coast of China

Sanchi Iranian property fell to the bottom of the ocean on Sunday, eight days after colliding with a cargo ship registered in Hong Kong, resulting in a toxic and burning fire that claimed the lives of 32 crew members. .

The State Oceanic Administration of China said that several oil slicks have already been found, one of them is almost 15 kilometers long (9.3 miles) and another one that covers an area of ​​58 square kilometers (22.4 square miles) ).

The 900-foot long tanker carried 136,000 tons (about 1 million barrels) of ultralight crude oil at the time of the collision. Ecologists and officials are concerned that the oil on board and the fuel used to power the huge ship could damage nearby aquatic life.

"The most important thing is to understand that when we place hydrocarbons in the oceans through events like this, it will affect a wide range of animals," said Jessica Meeuwig, professor of biological sciences at the University of Western Australia.

Lu Kang, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, said that an investigation is already under way.

The water samples tested by the Chinese government showed a dangerously high concentration of oil around the spill.

This could have a detrimental impact on marine life, including aquatic creatures and bacteria, according to Ma Jun, one of China's leading ecologists.

"The collision site was within the area that was considered one of the richest fishing areas in China, the boarding area of ​​Zhoushan," said Ma.

"We still need to monitor how these pollutants could be transported by the flow of the ocean to have the impact on the fishing area. "

  In this photo of Sunday provided by the Ministry of Transport of China, a rescue boat sails near the burning Iranian tanker Sanchi in the East China Sea.


Squid Spawning Land

According to Greenpeace, the Zhoushan area is a spawning ground for sword and bluefin squid, and during the winter it is home to edible species such as crabs and mackerel.

Previous incidents such as Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico have taught scientists that even if a spill is limited to a certain area or only immediately impacts certain species, it still has the potential to affect the entire ecosystem further.

"The fact is that it crosses the whole food chain," Meeuwig said.

The tanker was transporting condensate, an ultra-refined and highly volatile form of ultralight crude oil used to make products such as aviation fuel.

The condensate, which is composed of a mixture of hydrocarbons, is lighter than the thick black crude associated with spills such as Exxon Valdez.

The high volatility of condensate oil means that it evaporates more easily than heavier crude oils. Much of the oil on board the Sanchi – although it is unclear how much – was probably consumed in the blazing fire after the crash, environmentalists say.

Greenpeace said that it is impossible to estimate how much of the condensate has been burned or evaporated.

The Chinese government's modeling test cited by the environmental group suggested that less than 1% would remain on the surface of the sea five hours after the collision, although Greenpeace said more research is needed to confirm how much condensate oil remains .

"Now the most important thing we have to do is send a team of experts to assess the situation and try to make some appropriate plans to minimize the damage," said Fu Pengcheng, professor of life sciences and biotechnology in Beijing. University of Chemical Technology.

The volatility of the substance also explains why the ship caught fire so quickly, condemning the 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshi crew members aboard the tanker, but not on board the other vessel involved in the collision. 19659003] According to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the crew on board the Sanchi died an hour after the accident "due to the large-scale explosion and toxic gas."

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