The Japan Coast Guard came to the rescue after authorities alerted them of a burning Chinese freighter despite mounting maritime tensions over disputed territories.
According to AFP, the chief engineer of the 12,703-tonne Ming Yang had heard an explosion from the main engine on Saturday night, where the fire likely started. Taiwanese authorities raised the alarm when the vessel was located 150 kilometers southeast of Okinawa. The coast guard sent patrol vessels and aircraft to rescue the seamen – 21 had escaped by a life raft – and all 64 were brought to safety early Sunday morning, with some having suffered minor injuries.
The Japan Coast Guard had been patrolling the waters after Chinese vessels were seen near the contested islands. Just last week, a flotilla of Chinese warships, believed to be sailing home from a military exercise in the Pacific, skirted Japan’s contiguous zones. The waters remained frigid as tensions escalate since Japan bought several islands from the Senkaku chain in the East China Sea.