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EghtesadOnline: Clumps of oil have washed up on the shores of southern Japan and there are fears they may be leaking from an Iranian crude tanker that sank in the world’s worst such disaster in decades, the Japanese Coastguard said on Friday.

Black clumps have reached the shores of the island of Amami-Oshima, a coastguard official told Reuters by phone.

Authorities are checking to see if it is from the Sanchi tanker that sank in the East China Sea last month, after being alerted to its presence by the public.

The government had set up a special unit within Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office to coordinate Japan’s response to the latest development, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters, according to Financial Tribune.

“The government, while working closely with local authorities, is looking into how broad the range of oil clumps washed ashore is and what has caused it,” Suga said.

“We are doing all we can, including dispatching a Coastguard unit” to remove the oil, he said.

Amami-Oshima is part of a chain of islands that includes Okinawa, an area famous for pristine beaches and reef systems.

The Iranian tanker sank nearly three weeks ago, raising worries about damage to the marine ecosystem.

The bodies of two sailors were recovered from the ship while a third body was pulled from the sea near the vessel. The remaining 29 crew of the ship are also presumed dead.

Earlier, the Chinese government said the sunken tanker had created two oil slicks. The ship, which was carrying 136,000 tons or almost 1 million barrels of condensate—an ultra-light, highly flammable crude oil—sank after several explosions weakened the hull.

Japan’s Environment Ministry had said last month it saw little chance that the spill would reach Japanese shores.

Representatives of Iran, China, Panama and the manufacturing company of Sanchi’s voyage data recorder launched a joint probe into the incident last month. The examination of Sanchi’s black box could last three months.

According to Iranian officials, underwater robots could help shed light on how the collision happened, but nothing can be confidently confirmed before Sanchi’s VDR examination is complete.

 

Sanchi Iran crude tanker Japan Shores