BFF-47 Ten people dead after fire on two vessels off Crimea

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BFF-47

RUSSIA-UKRAINE-TANZANIA-ACCIDENT

Ten people dead after fire on two vessels off Crimea

MOSCOW, Jan 21, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – Ten people died off Russia-annexed Crimea in the Black Sea on Monday after a fire engulfed gas tankers sailing under the flag of Tanzania, authorities said.

“There are 10 dead,” Alexei Kravchenko, spokesman for Russia’s Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport, told AFP.

The fire broke out when one vessel was transferring fuel to another, driving both crews to jump overboard, said Kravchenko.

“A search-and-rescue operation is under way,” he said, adding that 14 crew members have been found alive.

Authorities in the Crimean city of Kerch were preparing to receive the victims, he added.

The ships, the Kandy and the Maestro, had crews of nationals from India and Turkey.

The accident struck close to the Kerch Strait, which has become a new flashpoint in tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

In November, Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels in the Kerch Strait as they tried to pass from the Black Sea to the Azov Sea.

The confrontation was the first open military incident between Kiev and Moscow since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and a pro-Russian insurgency erupted in eastern Ukraine.

BSS/AFP/MMA/2350HRS