Oil Tanker Explodes Off Western Japan Coast, One Missing

An oil tanker ship exploded off the coast of western Japan today after delivering its cargo, injuring four crew members seriously and leaving one missing.

The 998-ton Shoko Maru burst into flames while being cleaned off the coast of Hyogo prefecture at about 9:25 a.m., a spokeswoman for Syoho Shipping Co. said by telephone. The woman asked that her name not be used, saying she wasn’t authorized by the closely held company to speak on the matter.

Four crew members suffered burns over their bodies, three were unharmed and the Japan Coast Guard is searching for the missing captain, Yoshinobu Saito, a spokesman for the organization said by telephone in Tokyo. The country’s transport ministry has sent three people to probe the incident aboard the 81-meter (266-foot) ship, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

Film on public broadcaster NHK’s website showed the listing tanker billowing smoke while being doused by several fireboats. The fire has since been put out, the Japan Coast Guard’s Saito said.

The explosion follows the sinking of a Panama-registered cargo ship off the coast of Japan in March, and the capsizing of the Sewol ferry off South Korea that left more than 300 people dead or missing last month.

Syoho Shipping is based in Hiroshima prefecture, Japan.

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