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Chemical tanker sinks off Japan after collision

Chemical tanker sinks off Japan after collision
TOKYO - A Japanese chemical tanker sank after colliding with a container ship on the weekend, prompting fears of a leak of its cargo, coastguard officials said.
The 411-tonne Eiwa Maru, carrying 500 tonnes of the thinner xylene, hit the 52,103-tonne Panamanian-registered Ever Reward at around 3:00 a.m. (1800 GMT) about 20 miles (30 km) off Japan\'s Izu peninsula, roughly 160 km (100 miles) west of Tokyo. There were no indications of a major leak after the tanker sank around seven hours after the collision. \"There are no signs of any large leak at this point,\" said an official with the Japanese coastguard in Yokohama, near Tokyo. The spokesman for the Yokohama disaster prevention centre said that while xylene can be toxic in high concentrations, it is not water-soluble and any that leaked out would float to the surface. \"There it will evaporate, taking from minutes - if there is a strong wind - up to five hours to completely disappear,\" he added. \"So the chance of damage, even to marine life, is likely to be minimal.\" The Eiwa Maru\'s crew of four escaped on a life raft and were picked up by a nearby ship, an official at the Shimoda coastguard station on Izu said. They went to hospital with minor injuries. There was no damage to the container ship, which continued on course to Shimizu harbour on the Izu peninsula. Weather conditions were fine and visibility good at the time of the accident, the official said, but he declined to speculate on the cause pending an investigation. A ship with personnel trained to contain chemical leaks was among four vessels dispatched to the site. Xylene, used as thinner and to make plastic resins, evaporates rapidly from soil and surface water and sunlight breaks it into less toxic substances, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says at its Web site. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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