Sino-Japanese relations

Japan saves 64 Chinese seamen from burning freighter

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 October, 2012, 2:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Japan’s coastguard on Sunday saved all 64 Chinese seamen from their burning cargo ship, as the two nations remain locked in an acrimonious dispute over contested islands.

The coastguard was alerted by Taiwan authorities late on Saturday about a fire on the 12,703-tonne Ming Yang and sent patrol vessels and aircraft to the scene, around 150 kilometres southeast of Okinawa.

By 2.30am on Sunday a Japanese coastguard ship had saved 21 people who escaped on a life raft, while 43 others remained on the deck of the burning freighter, registered in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

All of the Chinese seamen were rescued by 3.47am, with three of them suffering minor injuries, the coastguard said.

It said the ship’s chief engineer had reported hearing sounds resembling an explosion from the main engine on Saturday evening.

The Japan coastguard has been busy kept busy monitoring waters around disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, far to the west of the burning freighter.

The coastguard said four Chinese official vessels were in contiguous waters around the islands on Sunday.

Such vessels have been spotted in waters off the islands as the dispute escalated over the last two months, with the boats at times entering a 12-nautical mile territorial zone.

Tensions between the two nations peaked in mid-September after Japan’s government bought a number of the disputed islands.