Japanese oil tanker explodes, one missing

The cause of the explosion on the Shoko Maru on Thursday  is not yet known

An oil tanker has exploded off the south-west coast of Japan, leaving one of the eight people aboard missing, the Japanese coast guard has said.

Four other people were seriously injured in the incident near Himeji port on Thursday.

Images and footage from the scene shows huge clouds of black smoke billowing from the 998-tonne Shoko Maru as coast guard vessels seek to bring the flames under control.

The fire gutted the middle of the oil tanker, which is based in the western city of Hiroshima.

Seven people were rescued, but four suffered severe burns, public broadcaster NHK reported. A search was underway for the missing man, who is believed to be the tanker’s captain.

The cause of the explosion was unclear, said coast guard spokesman Koji Takarada. NHK said crew members were working on the deck of the tanker at the time of the blast.

Additional reporting by Associated Press