The largest vessel in the Iranian Navy yesterday caught fire and later sank in the Gulf of Oman under unclear circumstances, semi-official news agencies reported.
The Fars and Tasnim news agencies said that efforts failed to save the support ship Kharg, named after the island that serves as the main oil terminal for Iran.
The fire was noticed at about 2:25am and firefighters attempted to get the blaze under control, Fars reported.
Photo: Asriran.com via AP
The vessel sank near the Port of Jask in Iran, about 1,270km southeast of Tehran on the Gulf of Oman, near the Strait of Hormuz.
Photographs circulated on Iranian social media showed sailors wearing life jackets evacuating the vessel as a fire burned behind them.
State TV and semi-official news agencies referred to the Kharg as a “training ship.”
Fars published video of thick, black smoke rising from the ship early yesterday morning.
Satellite photographs from Planet Labs showed the Kharg off to the west of Jask on Tuesday. Satellites from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that track fires from space detected a blaze at Jask that started just before the time reported by Fars.
The Kharg serves as one of a few vessels in the Iranian Navy capable of providing replenishment at sea for its other ships. It can also lift heavy cargo and serve as a launch point for helicopters.
The ship, built in Britain and launched in 1977, entered the Iranian Navy in 1984 after lengthy negotiations that followed Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iranian officials offered no cause for the fire aboard the Kharg, but it comes after a series of mysterious explosions that began in 2019 targeting ships in the Gulf of Oman.
The US Navy later accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, timed explosives typically attached by divers to a vessel’s hull.
Iran denied targeting the vessels, although US Navy footage showed members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps removing one unexploded limpet mine from a vessel.
The incidents came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran after then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
The sinking of the Kharg marks the latest naval disaster for Iran. Last year, during an Iranian military training exercise, a missile mistakenly struck a naval vessel near the Port of Jask, killing19 sailors and wounding 15.
In 2018, an Iranian Navy destroyer sank in the Caspian Sea.
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