Bulgarian Tanker Blazes Off Romania

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Monday May 7 5:05 PM ET Two Die As Bulgarian Tanker Blazes Off Romania

CONSTANTA, Romania (Reuters) - A Bulgarian oil tanker burst into flames just outside the Black Sea port of Constanta Monday after an explosion, killing two crew.

The ship had no cargo but was carrying 500 tons of engine fuel. Rescuers said the fire was under control but thick smoke continued to billow from the ship six hours after the blast.

Two bodies were dragged from the sea, meaning all the crew of 34 were accounted for, a doctor at the port hospital said.

Five people, including the captain, had elected to stay on board as fears of a second major explosion subsided.

The other 27, who escaped from the 75,000-ton capacity Mesta in a lifeboat, were picked up by rescuers and taken ashore for checks. A dislocated shoulder was the only injury.

Five tugboats with firefighting gear sprayed the ship with foam.

``We have the fire under control,'' said Sorin Chintauan, coordinator of emergency services at the scene. ``There is no risk of another explosion.''

Officials said they had no information about the cause of the blast, which a reporter for Romania's Pro-TV said had blown a gaping hole in the side of the ship above the water line.

Other vessels were moved from the area around the Mesta, which was built in 1974 and had been anchored outside the port for the past 10 days awaiting repairs.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), May 07, 2001

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