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Could static electricity be responsible for tanker explosions?

Late last year a tanker off the coast of Japan exploded killing two crew members. Before that a oil tanker docked on a river in China exploded, leaving one dead, and most recently three were killed when a tanker exploded off the USA coast. All three vessels were loaded with tons of ethanol/gasoline when the explosion occurred. Could static electricity be responsible for all or some of these explosions? As most of our readers know, static electricity and gasoline can be a deadly combination. Below are a few details about the tanker explosions.

Tanker explodes off Japan

Two Filipino crew members were missing after an explosion on board a tanker carrying 4,000 tons of ethanol in waters off western Japan, a coastguard official said.

The 4,356-ton Sun Venus burst into flames about 4 miles east of Himejima Island in the Seto Inland Sea, separating the main Japanese island of Honshu and Shikoku Island, the official said.

According to a radio message from the tanker, two of the 19 Filipino crew were missing after the blast, although none of those accounted for was seriously injured, the official said.

Nine rescue craft were heading to the scene, "but because the chances of (the vessel) sinking are slim, the tanker is now sailing under its own power for a nearby harbor," the official said.

The tanker was on its way to the western Japanese port of Kobe from South Korea, the official said.

Chinese Tanker Explodes

One sailor is missing following an explosion on an oil tanker docked on the Xiangjiang River near Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan province. Police said an electrical short circuit was the cause of the blast.

Loaded with 495 tons of gasoline, the Xiangchang Oil Tanker No. 007 was ready to raise anchor from an oil dock when the explosion occurred.

Two sailors were on the ship at the time of the accident. One survived by jumping overboard, police said.

Rescuers are still looking for the missing sailor, and the cause of the explosion is still under investigation.

Tanker explodes off Virginia coast

At least 3 crew members were killed when a 570-foot tanker carrying industrial ethanol exploded and sank about 50 miles off the Virginia coast.

The Bow Mariner tanker, which was built in 1982, called in a mayday to the Coast Guard after 6:00 p.m. to report the explosion.

The Singapore-flagged vessel was in transit from New York to Houston with 24 Filipino and three Greek crew members when a fire broke out on the deck of the ship, causing the explosion.

''When the rescue divers got on the scene the fuel tanker was on fire, sinking and there was people in the water,'' said Lt. Chris Shaffer of Ocean City Emergency Services.

Three helicopters, three Coast Guard boats and a C-130 plane are still searching for 19 other crew members. Six of those injured were taken to hospitals in Maryland and Virginia.

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