An oil tanker collided with a cargo ship off China’s east coast, leaving 32 people missing, the Ministry of Transport said on Sunday.
The tanker, carrying 136,000 tons of oil condensate, caught fire following the collision Saturday night and its crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis were missing, it added in a statement.
The other vessel had been damaged but "without jeopardizing the safety of the ship" and all its 21 Chinese crew had been rescued, it added.
The tanker was still ablaze Sunday, with images broadcast by state television channel CCTV showing the ship in the grip of an intense fire, enveloped in clouds of black smoke.
The accident occurred in waters about 160 nautical miles east of Shanghai.
The Panamanian-flagged 274-meter (899-foot) tanker "Sanchi" was sailing from Iran to South Korea when it collided with the Hong Kong-registered freighter CF Crystal 257 kilometers (160 miles) from shore late Saturday, the Ministry of Transport said.
The cargo ship was carrying 64,000 tons of grain.
Chinese maritime authorities have dispatched eight ships for the search and rescue operation and South Korea has sent a plane and coastguard ship to help, the official Xinhua news agency said.
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the collision.
The Sanchi has operated under five different names in the time since it was built in 2008, according the UN-run International Maritime Organization.
The IMO listed its registered owner as Hong Kong-based Bright Shipping Ltd., care of the National Iranian Tanker Co., a publicly traded company based in Tehran.
The National Iranian Tanker Co. describes itself as operating the largest tanker fleet in the Middle East.
An official in Iran's Oil Ministry, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to journalists, said that 30 of the 32 crew members on the ship were Iranians.
"We have no information on their fate," he said. "We cannot say all of them are died, because rescue teams are there and providing services."
He said the tanker was owned by the National Iranian Tanker Co., and had been rented by a South Korean company, Hanwha Total Co. He said the tanker was on its way to South Korea.
Hanwa Total is a 50-50 partnership between the Seoul-based Hanwha Group and the French oil giant Total. Total did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It is the second collision for a ship from the National Iranian Tanker Co. in less than a year and a half. In August 2016, one of its tankers collided with a Swiss container ship in the Singapore Strait, damaging both ships but causing no injuries or oil spill.