Two ships are on fire in the Kerch Strait after an apparent explosion that killed at least nine sailors.
The Russian Maritime Agency, Rosmorrechflot, said that one of the ships suffered an explosion, causing it and a nearby ship to catch fire.
“Fourteen people have been rescued. Nine bodies have been retrieved from water,” a Rosmorrechflot spokesperson told Russian news agency Tass.
Watch the video below of the burning vessels:
Black smoke clouds can be seen pouring from the fiery vessel. Nearby, two ships are visible as they assisted in crew rescue efforts.
“A message was received about a fire on a gas tanker south of Cape Opuk, the ship was transferring cargo to the next one, an explosion occurred, and the fire went over to the next ship,” an unnamed source told Interfax.
“Two ships are burning under the flag of Tanzania. 31 crew members evacuated independently into the water: 17 and 14, respectively, from each of the ships. All are alive and in the water,” the source added.
The sailors are Indian and Turkish nationals, according to Interfax.
“We received information from passing ships that on one of the two vessels that were nearby, apparently, there was a transshipment of fuel, there was a clap with an outbreak. At first, the fire on one ship became noticeable, then spread to the second,” the Rosmorrechflot spokesperson told Interfax.
The ships, “Kandy” and “Maestro” were anchored in neutral waters during the exchange of cargo.
“The fire, according to the passing ships, occurred on one of the two ships, then spread to another ship,” said a spokesperson for Rosmorrechflot.
A blast occurred aboard a ship transporting natural gas thru Kerch Strait while cargo was being moved between it and another ship. The two vessels are now engulfed in flames & more than two dozen sailors are overboard, @KerchFM & @interfax_news report. https://t.co/4wPh614j5J
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) January 21, 2019
Kerch Strait is the narrow waterway bordering Russia, which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The explosion took place approximately 15 nautical miles from the Russian coast.
It was there that Russia attacked three Ukrainian naval ships in November and captured 23 Ukrainian sailors.