A Japanese oil tanker located in the Himeji Port in western Hiroshima exploded on Thursday morning, causing the ship to catch fire. Seven of the ship’s eight crew members were rescued, with four suffering from severe burns, but the captain is still unaccounted for as of this writing.
The 998-tonne Shoko Maru had just finished unloading its crude oil cargo and was near the Hyogo Prefecture coast when the explosion occurred at around 9:30 AM. Fortunately, the tanker was almost empty, or else the damage would have been worse. According to Akihiro Komura, an official from Syoho Shipping who owns the ship, one of the crew members was removing paint by using a grinder which might have triggered the blast. He also confirmed that all eight on board were Japanese nationals and that the 7 were confirmed alive. All of them were brought to the hospital, with four being treated for serious injuries. They still have no word on the whereabouts of the 64-year-old captain, but will continue search and rescue operations.
When news broke about the explosion, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in parliament and interrupted an ongoing debate to break the news. Footage showed ships and aircraft fighting the fire that engulfed the ship with water cannons. Authorities assured the public that there was no danger to the other ships in the area since the tanker was stationed just outside the port area.
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