Four people are seriously injured and one still missing after a 998-tonne oil tanker owned by Syoho Shopping exploded off the south-west coast of Japan.
The tanker, Shoko Maru, was left leaning over in the water near Himeji port after the accident occurred on Thursday morning, with firefighters trying to extinguish the fire.
Of the eight crew members, four were severely injured in the explosion, while the 64-year old captain is still missing. The cause of the explosion is still being investigated, but it is thought this could have been caused by human error.
An official from Hiroshima-based shipping firm Syoho Shipping, Akihiro Komura, told the press, “The ship unloaded crude oil at a port in Hyogo prefecture and the tanker was virtually empty when the accident occurred.
“I 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.
“It is a Japanese ship and belongs to our company. All the crew members are Japanese nationals.”
Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe was in a parliamentary meeting when the accident happened and he interrupted the session to announce the explosion.
The country recently approved a new energy plan, which placed greater focus on nuclear and coal power but fell short on renewable energy.
The oil tanker accident comes just a few weeks after a deadly explosion killed more than 200 coal miners in Turkey. Hundreds of people died from carbon monoxide poisoning and the tragedy sparked outrage over poor safety measures in Turkish mines.
Photo: kris krüg via flickr