An explosion on the 998-ton Shoko Maru oil tanker anchored about five kilometres off the port of Himeji in western Japan set off a huge fire that was battled by ships and aircraft. The Japanese coastguard reports that seven members of the eight-person crew were rescued, but the ship’s 64-year-old captain is missing.
Four of the rescued crew remembers were seriously injured in the blast and all seven of them were taken to hospitals after arriving in the port, which is about 75 kilometres west of Osaka on the Seto Inland Sea. The tanker was empty when the blast occurred, which undoubtedly saved the explosion from developing into a major environmental disaster.
Water cannons tackled the blaze that left the tanker scorched, smouldering and listing to one side. An exclusion zone was set up around the damaged vessel and the cause the explosion is still being investigated.