HONG KONG: One man was killed and two others declared missing after an oil tanker caught fire while it was being refuelled off Hong Kong on Tuesday, sending a huge cloud of dark smoke billowing into the air.
Twenty-three people were rescued after those on board the stricken Vietnamese-listed vessel either fell or jumped into the sea, police said.
Some of the victims suffered burns, with four people injured, one of them seriously.
Fears of a potential environmental catastrophe in a busy shipping channel also known for porpoises and turtles were dampened late Tuesday after officials said no leak had been detected from the vessel which not carrying any oil cargo at the time of the accident.
Fire department commander Yiu Men-yeung said the ship was about to be refuelled by an oil barge when the accident occurred.
He told reporters that according to the 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.
Yiu added that the vessel, which was on its way from the southern Chinese industrial city of Dongguan to Thailand, was not at risk of sinking. It took around five hours for firefighters to put out the blaze.
But the tanker, which had a crew of 25 Vietnamese, was listing at a 30 degree angle.
One Singaporean national was slightly injured on the oil barge, authorities said.