Death Toll in Malaysia Tanker Inferno Rises to Three
Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian authorities on Friday found the bodies of two more crew members missing after the fiery explosion of a tanker, raising the confirmed death toll to three, a police official said.
The accident happened early on Thursday as the vessel was being loaded with methanol on the island of Labuan, and police have said they suspect a lightning strike triggered the three huge blasts.
Labuan police chief Saiman Casran said the recovery of two more bodies leaves two other crew members still missing, including a Philippine national.
The blasts aboard the MV Bunga Alpinia triggered a raging inferno that Saiman said took firefighters 30 hours to extinguish. The 38,000-ton ship suffered severe damage.
Labuan is in the South China Sea off the coast of the Malaysian portion of Borneo island.
The accident forced the temporary evacuation of hundreds of factory workers on Labuan until the vessel could be towed away from the jetty and out to sea, Saiman said.
Saiman said there was “little chance” that the two still missing had survived, but search and rescue boats were combing the area near the tanker. Firefighters have also boarded the smoldering vessel to search for them.
Saiman said authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire, which broke out during a thunderstorm as the ship was docked at a methanol terminal run by national energy firm Petronas.
The chemical and palm oil tanker had 29 people on board — 23 Malaysians and six Filipinos. Twenty-four of them were brought ashore safely, three of whom suffered slight burns, according to Malaysian media reports.
The vessel is owned by shipping firm MISC, a subsidiary of Petronas.