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At Least 14 Dead After Ships Catch Fire Off Crimea

Updated

The Russian Transport Ministry said there were a total of 31 crew members on the two ships.

A fire on two Tanzanian-flagged commercial vessels has killed at least 14 sailors off the Crimean Peninsula, Russian authorities say.

A spokesman for Russia's Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport, said on January 21 that 12 crew members were rescued.

Five others are still missing.

The fire broke out when one vessel was transferring fuel to another in the Black Sea near the Kerch Strait, Aleksei Kravchenko said.

He also said a search-and-rescue operation was still under way and that authorities in the Crimean city of Kerch were preparing to receive the victims.

Russian news agencies reported that the fire spread from one ship to the other, prompting their crews to jump overboard.

The Russian Transport Ministry said there were a total of 31 crew members on the two ships and they included citizens of Turkey and India.

A search for those still missing was under way, authorities said.

The Interfax news agency reported that a criminal inquiry had been launched into the incident.

Some reports said violations of safety rules may have caused the fire.

The Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, is a focus of tension between Russia and Ukraine.

In November, Russian security forces fired on, boarded, and then seized three Ukrainian vessels near the narrow channel.

Moscow claims the Ukrainian vessels illegally entered Russian territorial waters near Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Russia occupied and took over in 2014.

Ukraine denied the claim.

A Russian court earlier this month extended by three months the detention of 24 Ukrainian sailors captured in the incident. They are accused of illegally crossing into Russian territory.

The United States, European Union, and other countries have called for the release of the sailors.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, TASS, and Interfax
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