Oil spill from sunken tanker is expanding in East China Sea

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The Chinese government said late on Tuesday it had not found a "large-scale" oil leak, and the ultra light oil, known as condensate, was burning off or evaporating so quickly it would leave little residue - less than 1 percent - within five hours of a spill. But oil spills in general can be extremely damaging to the marine environment and require specialised clean-up expertise to minimise their impact, said Yvonne Sadovy, from the University of Hong Kong's school of biological sciences.

The Sanchi also left a ten-square-kilometre area contaminated with condensate, the AP said.

The Panama-registered oil tanker Sanchi, carrying 136,000 tonnes of light crude oil from Iran, collided with the CF Crystal, a Hong Kong-registered bulk freighter, about 300 kilometers east of the Yangtze estuary on January 6.

The blazing vessel, which was carrying 136,000 tonnes - nearly one million barrels - of condensate, an ultra-light, highly flammable crude oil, sank on Sunday evening after several explosions weakened the hull.

This makes it the biggest tanker spill since 1991 when 260,000 tonnes of oil leaked off the Angolan coast.

"We can't grasp the level of oil contamination at this moment". The cargo is four times larger than the heavier crude on the Exxon Valdez spilled off Alaska in 1989, affecting about 1,300 miles of shoreline and destroying thousands of marine fauna.

Zhao, who is deputy head of the ministry's press office, said new photos and video footage showed the fire had gone out entirely and said an investigation into the disaster would be conducted according to the "strictest worldwide standards". It had been handed over to the civil affairs bureau.

The Sanchi's crew consisted of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis. Strong winds pushed it away from the Chinese coast, where the incident happened, and into Japan's exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Greenpeace said in a statement the explosion and sinking had occurred in "an important (fish) spawning ground". It kept exploding like bombs.

"Finding the black box will be helpful for all parties in correctly determining the reasons for the accident", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Monday.

China's transport ministry warned toxic gas from the tanker was harmful to the rescue workers and that protective clothing and gas testing equipment was being dispatched to the emergency teams.

The Coast Guard has not identified the kind of oil in the slick, but it assumes the spill mostly contains condensate as some of the slick is diffusing and disappearing.

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