Iran’s largest warship caught fire and sank in the Gulf of Oman on Wednesday, news agencies reported.

The entire crew was able to safely disembark from the support ship Kharg, but “all efforts to save the vessel were unsuccessful and it sank,” the Fars news agency said.

The blaze began around 2.25am and firefighters tried to control it, but the vessel sank near the Iranian port of Jask, some 1,270km southeast of Tehran near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf.

Photos on Iranian social media showed sailors wearing life jackets evacuating the vessel as a fire burned behind them.

State TV referred to the Kharg as a “training ship,” with Fars publishing a video of thick, black smoke rising from the ship early on Wednesday morning.

Smoke rises from Iran’s navy support ship Kharg in the Gulf of Oman

( via AP)

Satellite photos from Planet Labs Inc showed the Kharg off to the west of Jask on Tuesday, with pictures from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which track fires from space, detecting a blaze at the site starting just before the time of the fire reported by Fars.

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 warship, built in Britain and launched in 1977, entered the Iranian navy in 1984 after lengthy negotiations that followed Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s navy typically handles patrols in the Gulf of Oman and the wider seas, while the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard operates in the shallower waters of the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. In recent months, however, the navy launched a slightly larger commercial tanker called the Makran it converted into serving a similar function as the Kharg.

Iranian officials offered no cause for the fire aboard the Kharg.

However, it comes after a series of mysterious explosions that began in 2019 targeting ships in the Gulf of Oman. The US Navy later accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, timed explosives typically attached by divers to a vessel’s hull.

Iran denied targeting the vessels, though US Navy footage showed members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard removing one unexploded limpet mine from a vessel. The incidents came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran after then president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The sinking of the Kharg marks 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, killing19 sailors and wounding 15. Also in 2018, an Iranian navy destroyer sank in the Caspian Sea.

Additional reporting by agencies


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