Fire on ships killed 14 Indian, Turkish crew members off Russia

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2 ships with Indian and Turkish crew caught fire in the Kerch Strait, separating Russia from Crimea
2 ships with Indian and Turkish crew caught fire in the Kerch Strait, separating Russia from Crimea

New Delhi : Two ships carrying Indian, Turkish and Libyan crew members have caught fire in the Kerch Strait separating Crimea from Russia, killing at least 14 sailors, media reports today. 

The flames covered the ship on Monday off Russia's territorial waters. Both vessels were flying Tanzanian flags. One of them was a liquefied natural gas (LNG) carrier and the one was a tanker. The fire broke out as the two ships were transferring fuel from one to the other.

One of the ships, the Candy, had a 17-member crew, including nine Turkish citizens and eight Indian nationals.

The other one, the Maestro, had 15-member crew, including seven Turkish nationals, seven Indian citizens and an intern from Libya, Russian news agency TASS quoted the maritime authority as saying.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the Indian embassy in Moscow was in touch with the Russian agencies to get more information on Indian nationals affected in the incident and to extend necessary assistance.

"We have been informed that two ships caught fire while moving through the Kerch Strait after one of them was apparently rocked by an explosion on 21 January," he said.

At least 14 sailors have died, Russian Maritime Agency was quoted by RT news, a Russian television network, as saying.

"Presumably, an explosion occurred (on one of the vessels). Then the fire spread to another vessel. A rescue tug is en route," said a spokesman for the Russian Maritime Agency.

Sources said that some sailors managed to escape the burning ships by jumping off the vessels. Twelve persons have been rescued from the sea. Nine sailors are still listed as missing, the spokesperson said.

Sadly, there were no chances to find survivors in the fire, the spokesperson said. 

"As of 6 am, the status of the operation has been reclassified to search from rescue because there is no hope to find survivors," the spokesperson said.

The fire has not been extinguished. "The blaze is ongoing," he said.

Severe weather conditions at sea have prevented rescue ships from taking victims to the shore for medical treatment, the report added.