Oil tanker explosion in Hong Kong kills 1 crew member

Smoke rising from an oil tanker which caught fire off the coast in Hong Kong's southern waters on Jan 8 2019

Smoke rising from an oil tanker which caught fire off the coast in Hong Kong's southern waters on Jan 8 2019

Officers said they received a report of an oil tanker exploding and catching fire in waters south of the outlying Lamma Island.

The source of the blaze appeared to be the cargo hold, the fire officials said.

Footage from the scene shows the tanker heeling to the starboard, with thick black smoke emitting from one of its burning tanks.

"An initial investigation showed there was an explosion and some people fell into the waters from the vessel", a police spokesman said, as quoted by the newspaper.

The Aulac Fortune is a small, 17,500 deadweight tonne oil product tanker built in 2010, sailing under Vietnamese flag, according to data from Marine Traffic.

Meanwhile, the broadcaster RTHK reported that one person had been killed, while 23 crewmen had been rescued, with three to four of them in need of medical treatment.

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"I heard several banging and rumbling sounds, like someone with big hands knocking my glass door", a resident of Lamma Island's Mo Tat New Village, who gave his name as Shu, told AFP.

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 was really strong", said the woman, Rhea Nee.

Police marine vessels, three fire boats and a helicopter were dispatched to the area to take part in the rescue operation.

A fisherman from Lamma told local news channel i-Cable he first heard explosions and then saw "dense smoke" followed by a "ball of fire".

The Vietnam-registered vessel burst into flames as it prepared to refuel at an anchorage off Hong Kong's southern coast, according to authorities.

It is believed the tanker was carrying chemicals as well as oil, with ship-tracking websites MarineTraffic and VesselFinder both classifying the ship as an "oil/chemical tanker".

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