One crew member has been killed and two others declared missing after an oil tanker caught fire while being refuelled off Hong Kong on Tuesday, sending a massive cloud of dark smoke billowing into the air.
Twenty-three people were rescued from the Aulac Fortuneafter they either fell or jumped into the sea from the Vietnamese-flagged vessel.
Some suffered burns and four people were injured – one of them seriously.
Fears of a potential environmental catastrophe in the busy shipping channel – famous for its porpoises and turtles – were allayed after fire officials said no oil leaks from the vessel had yet been detected.
The ship was about to be refuelled by an oil barge when the incident happened.
According to crew on the barge, they were “connecting the hoses for refuelling for the oil tanker, and then there were three explosions before the ship burst into flames”.
The vessel, which was on its way from the southern Chinese industrial city of Dongguan to Thailand, is not currently at risk of sinking, but it is listing at 30 degrees.
It took more than five hours for firefighters to put out the blaze.
Witnesses described feeling shockwaves when the explosions tore through the ship.
“I felt my boat shaking," said a local speedboat driver.
"The tremble came from the sea,”