Fourteen crew members die as two gas tankers catch fire near Crimea

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Fourteen people have died and five are missing after two gas tankers caught fire near Crimea, Russia’s transport ministry has said.

The blazes broke out when one vessel was transferring fuel to another in the Kerch Strait connecting the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

Workers on both ships had to jump overboard and 14 crew members have been found alive.

The vessels were sailing under the Tanzania flag.

Alexei Kravchenko, spokesman for Russia’s federal agency for maritime and river transport, said: “There are 11 bodies.

“Another three people went under water before rescue workers’ eyes.”

He added that those three are most likely dead.

The two ships, named Kandy and Maestro, were carrying 31 people in total and most of them were Turkish or Indian citizens.

Mr Kravchenko said 12 people survived but “no one knows where the other five people are”.

A rescue operation is continuing and authorities in the Russia-annexed city of Crimea are preparing to receive the victims.

An industry source told Reuters there were stormy conditions in the sea when the fires broke out.

The Kerch Strait is a flashpoint in tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

Russia fired on and seized three Ukrainian navy vessels there in November as they tried to pass from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.

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.

(c) Sky News 2019: Fourteen crew members die as two gas tankers catch fire near Crimea

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