South Korean oil ship explodes; North not suspected

A South Korean Coast Guard boat cruises near the broken cargo ship Doola No. 3 after an explosion off the western port city of Incheon.

REPORTING FROM SEOUL -– An explosion on a fuel tanker off South Korea’s west coast Sunday killed five crewmen and left six missing, though authorities here do not suspect North Korean involvement.

Photographs showed that the blast aboard the 4,191-ton vessel Doola No. 3 broke the ship in half. The explosion took place several miles off the coast of Incheon, South Korean coast guard officials said. Five crew members aboard the ship were rescued.

Ship owners said Sunday that the explosion took place while gas was being drained from the oil tank. "The vessel usually transports diesel, but this time it carried gasoline. We are now examining whether it had any relation to the explosion," a company official told Seoul’s Yonhap news service.

Before leaving port in Incheon, the ship had unloaded 6,500 tons of gasoline.

The coast guard said it was searching for the missing crewmembers. Officials said that 11 South Korean and five Myanmar crewmen were aboard the ship.

The incident occurred far from the tense sea border with North Korea, where the communist regime is accused of torpedoing a South Korean warship in 2010, killing 46 crewmen.

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South Korea puzzles over motives behind North's attack

North Korea is a tough target for U.S. intelligence agencies

-- John M. Glionna

Photo: A South Korean Coast Guard boat cruises near the broken cargo ship Doola No. 3 after an explosion off the western port city of Incheon. Credit: Yonhap / Associated Press

 
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