The Iranian navy’s largest ship has caught fire and sunk near the Gulf of Oman.
A blaze broke out on board support vessel Kharg on Tuesday afternoon while it was on a training mission near the port of Jask, according to Iranian news agencies.
All crew members were evacuated to shore before firefighters attempted to tackle the blaze, but could not save the ship.
Kharg sunk into waters at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday morning after 20 hours of efforts to save it.
It is not yet clear how the fire started, but it comes amid sky-high tensions between Iran and Israel following attacks on cargo ships and military vessels that the adversaries have blamed on each-other in recent months.
The Iranian navy’s largest ship – a support vessel named Kharg – sank near the port of Jask this morning after catching fire Tuesday, state media reported
The vessel was taking part in a training exercise with 400 people on board when the blaze broke out on Tuesday (pictured, the boat on fire)
In April, Iran blamed Israel for a blast which damaged military vessel MV Saviz in the Red Sea which it said was carried out using mines.
The ship had around 400 crew and students on board when the fire broke out, a government spokesman told the Tasnim news agency.
He said around 20 people had received minor burn injuries before the ship was evacuated, and that nobody was seriously hurt.
The spokesman added that the cause of the fire is still under investigation, and a statement will be made soon.
Photos circulated on Iranian social media of sailors wearing life jackets evacuating the vessel as a fire burned behind them.
Iran says 20 sailors were lightly wounded with burns during the incident, but nobody was seriously hurt
State TV and semiofficial news agencies referred to the Kharg as a ‘training ship.’
The Kharg serves as one of a few vessels in the Iranian navy capable of providing replenishment at sea for its other ships.
It also can lift heavy cargo and serve as a launch point for helicopters.
The Kharg was initially ordered from British shipmaker Swan Hunter in the 1970s by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – an ally of the West – before the 1979 Revolution which saw him ousted from power and driven into exile.
Following the revolution, the Kharg became a political hot potato and its transfer to Iran was held up several times – firstly because of the hostage crisis which saw Americans held prisoner in Tehran from 1979 until 1981, and then because of the detention of a British nation – Andrew Pyke – in Iran.
The ship was eventually handed over to Iran in 1984, after the hostage crisis had ended and Pyke had been released, on the grounds that is was a support vessels and could not be used in offensive operations.
The sinking of the Kharg in just the latest naval disaster for Iran.
In 2020 during an Iranian military training exercise, a missile mistakenly struck a naval vessel near the port of Jask, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15.
Also in 2018, an Iranian navy destroyer sank in the Caspian Sea.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have also previously been involved in clandestine attacks on vessels around the Strait of Hormuz that can initially be reported as fires.
In 2019, a series of explosions and fires on oil tankers linked both Iran and Saudi Arabia around the Arabian Peninsula brought the two sides close to war.
The blasts began in May when four tankers – two Saudi-flagged, one Norwegian-flagged and one Emirati-flagged – were damaged near the coast of UAE.
Then in June, the Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous were damaged in what was initially reported as a fire on the latter vessel.
The blaze broke out as the Kharg was sailing near the Strait of Hormuz, with all sailors evacuated to shore before the ship went down
The Kharg was built in Britain in 1977, and which entered the Iranian Navy in 1984 . It was designed to resupply other ships at sea, lift heavy cargo, and launch helicopters
American intelligence agencies backed by the UK and Saudi Arabia later accused Iran of attaching limpet mines to the side of the tankers, blowing holes in the hull which sparked the blaze.
In October, Iran then reported that one of its oil tankers had been hit by two missiles in the Red Sea, on the other side of the Arabian Peninsula, in what it said was a ‘terrorist attack.’
Then, the follow year, Iran was hit by a series of major fires that broke out on land – sparking rumours of sabotage operations.
The most serious blast took place in July that year at the Natanz nuclear facility causing significant damage, though officials said operations were not affected.
Another explosion hit a medical clinic north of Tehran last month, killing 19 people in what Iran said was a gas leak.
On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that was also blamed on a gas leak.
Six other fires and blasts have also been reported, most of which have taken place around Tehran, but some of which have occurred further south.
A factory in Baqershahr, a power plant in Zergan, the Shahid Tondgooyan petrochemicals plant, and Bushehr shipyard have all been struck.
Two Iranian fighter pilots killed as ejector seats ‘smash them into hangar roof’
Two Iranian fighter jet pilots were killed on Tuesday when their ejector seats activated before take-off, smashing them into the hangar roof.
State broadcaster IRIB reported the F-5 fighter jet had a ‘technical problem’ that killed both the pilots, identified as as Kianoush Basati and Hossein Nami.
The report said the incident unfolded at Dezful Vahdati Air Force Base, approximately 270 miles south of the capital Tehran, and near the Iraq border.
Kianoush Basati (right) and Hossein Nami (left) were killed after the ejector seats in their jet malfunctioned, Iranian state media said
According to BBC Persian, ejector seats were ‘wrongly activated’ for both the front and rear cockpit pilots. Both men ‘lost their lives due to a severe impact with the roof of the hangar’, the report added.
State TV channel IRNA said the incident happened before takeoff but did not elaborate.
Social media users identified Basati as a colonel and Nami as a lieutenant.