TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- A total of 32 Filipino sailors are reportedly safe after the two tankers they were aboard were struck by explosive devices at noon on Thursday (June 13), with the crew of one ship in Iran and the others aboard a US Navy vessel.
The 800-foot oil tanker Front Altair was laden with 75,000 tonnes of naptha, a flammable liquid hydrocarbon, when it was struck with an unidentified explosive device at around noon on Thursday Taiwan time. The ship was bound for Taiwan from Qatar when it was struck about 25 miles from Jask, Iran, reports Reuters, and a fire ensued, resulting in the order being given to abandon ship.
The owner of the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker, Norway's Frontline shipping said the vessel had been "attacked," which led to three explosions onboard. The Front Altair's 23 crew members were picked up by a passing ship, before being transferred to an Iranian rescue vessel, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
According to Reuters, the crew of the Front Altair consisted of 11 Filipinos, 11 Russians, and one Georgian. Frontline, the firm that operates the Front Altair, told Reuters that all 23 crew members "were transferred to an Iranian navy vessel and disembarked at a local Iranian port. It is understood they are now being transferred to Bandar Abbas."
That same day, blasts also rocked the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous. The 21 Filipino crew members onboard the Kokuka Courageous also abandoned ship, leaped into life rafts, and were rescued by a Dutch-flagged tug heading toward the United Arab Emirates, according to Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement.
The Kokuka is reportedly adrift at sea, is carrying methanol, and is not considered in danger of sinking, according to the ship's operator BSM Ship Management. The USS guided-missile destroyer USS Bainbridge was dispatched to the scene after the U.S. Navy received distress signals from the two tankers.
The crew of the Kokuka was then transferred to the USS Bainbridge said a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, reported AP.
At a press conference on Thursday (June 13), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that U.S. intelligence has evidence that Iran was responsible for the attacks, reported CBS News. However, Iran vehemently denies it had any part in the attacks.
Supporting Pompeo's assertion that Iran was involved in the attacks, the U.S. Navy on Thursday released drone footage showing an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Gashti Class patrol boat and crew removing an unexploded limpet mine from Kokuka Courageous:
Aerial footage showing one of the tankers in flames after being attacked: