Captain missing after explosion rips through Japanese tanker

Japanese Coast Guard photo Japanese Coast Guard photo

MAY 29, 2014 — A massive explosion ripped through the 998-tonne Japanese tanker Shoko Maru at around 09.20 local time today, sending flames leaping into the air.

The vessel's captain is missing. Seven other crew members were rescued, but four are being treated in hospital for severe burns.

Latest TV footage shows that, though the fire appears to have been extinguished firefighting vessels, continue to play hoses upon the ship in a cool down effort.

The incident occurred off the coast of Hyogo prefecture, about 450 kilometers west of Tokyo. The tanker had already discharged its oil cargo.

The ship, delivered in 1995 by Nakatani Shipyard Co., Ltd., is owned by Shoho Kaiun KK.

News agency AFP quotes an official of the company as saying that he "heard that a crew member was using a grinder to remove paint and that seems to have triggered the blast, which we believe could have occurred when the remnants of the oil caught fire."

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