Premium At least 1 killed as oil tanker catches fire in Hong Kong

An explosion on an oil tanker transporting kerosene has killed at least one crew member; two people are still missing. The accident occurred near one of Hong Kong's main islands.

Aulac Fortune, an 11,000-ton Vietnamese vessel transporting kerosene, has exploded this morning around 11.30 pm (local time) near Lamma Island, Hong Kong. The 26 crew members jumped into the water when they realized what had happened. 23 of them were rescued by marine police boats. One dead body was pulled out of the water and two crew members are still missing, a Hong Kong police spokesman told local media.

The Hong Kong government has confirmed that three firefighters are stationed next to the oil tanker. In the early afternoon, the fire was yet to be fully contained. The boat has a large hole in the deck, probably caused by the explosion, which raises concerns among local authorities as liquid can be seen pouring from the damaged area. It is yet to be determined whether this is fuel from the boat, kerosene, or simply water coming out of the boat. However, the authorities say that there is no significant oil build up around the ship.

Two of the survivors have been seriously injured, one with a deep leg injury and the other one with burns.

According to Marine Track, the ship was en route to Hong Kong port from Dongguan, Guangdong Province.

Residents of Lamma Island said they heard a big blast. One resident said that "the windows rattled so hard I thought it was an earthquake."

Parts of southern Lamma are a protected nesting site for green turtles, a highly endangered species. According to the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF), quoted by CNN, non-persistent oils such as kerosene "will dissipate rapidly through evaporation." Still, the ITOPF notes that impacts from non-persistent oils may include, at high concentrations, "acute toxicity to marine organisms."

Besides green turtles, Hong Kong's waters also host an endangered colony of white dolphins. So far, the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department has not made any comments.