A huge oil tanker turned into a fireball after a suspected torpedo attack off the coast of Iran.
A second tanker was said to have been targeted by a magnetic mine in a “suspicious” series of explosions.
The huge vessels – identified as the Front Altair and Kokuka Courageous ships – were evacuated and the alleged attack prompted a surge in crude oil prices.
Incredible photos from on board the Front Altair show a huge fireball and black smoke billowing from the side o the vessel.
Search and rescue teams from Iran saved 44 sailors from the stricken tankers.
The Front Altair, which was carrying crude oil, is believed to have been struck by the torpedo – and reports in Iran claim it later sank.
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But minutes later shipping firm Frontline, owner of the vessel, denied reports and claimed it was still afloat.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, described the incident as “suspicious”.
According to Pakistani media, the tankers – said to be carrying crude oil – had sent distress signals.
Mr Zarif tweeted that “reported attacks on Japan-related” oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman had taken place while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was meeting Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei “for extensive and friendly talks”.
“Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” he tweeted.
“Iran’s proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative.”
The US Fifth Fleet confirmed that two tankers had been damaged in the Sea of Oman.
It comes amid heightened tension between the US and Iran following an attack on four vessels in the Emirati coast a month ago.
On May 12, four oil tankers were targeted off the coast in Fujairah – with the US accusing Iran of sabotaging the vessels in an attempt to raise oil prices.
Shipping company Berhard Schulte, owner of the Kokuka Corageous, described the incident as a “suspected attack”.
It said in a statement: “The hull has been breached above the water line on the starboard side.
“All crew are reported safe and only one minor injury reported. There has been a fire in the engine room and the CO2 fire system has been released.”
It later confirmed that the ship’s cargo was intact.
The Front Altair, which was carrying 75,000 tonnes of naphtha, had been chartered by Taiwan’s state oil refiner CPC Corp.
Wu I-Fang, CPC’s petrochemical business division CEO, told Reuters that it was “suspected of being hit by a torpedo”. He said all crew members have been rescued.
Front Altair was last seen off Iran in the Gulf of Oman after loading its cargo from Ruwais in the United Arab Emirates.
Iranian search and rescue teams picked up 44 sailors from the two tankers, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).
They were taken to the Iranian port of Jask.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which is part of the UK Royal Navy, said on
Thursday that it was aware of an incident in the Gulf of Oman, near the Iranian coast.
“The UK and its partners are currently investigating,” it said.
No one is believed to have been hurt in the suspected attack.
Al Alam TV station in Iran reports that “successive explosions” took place 25 miles off the Iranian coast.
A shipping broker told Reuters the explosion may have involved a magnetic mine on the Kokuka.
The source stated: “All crew safely abandoned the vessel and was picked up by Vessel Coastal Ace.
“Kokuka Courageous is adrift without any crew on board.”
Joshua Frey of the US Fifth Fleet said: “We are aware of the reported attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman. U.S. Naval Forces in the region received two separate distress calls at 6.12am local time and a second one at 7am.”
Sources identified the tankers to Reuters as the Marshal Islands-flagged Front Altair and the Panama-flagged Kokuka Courageous.
A British government spokeswoman said: “We are deeply concerned by reports of explosions and fires on vessels in the Strait of Hormuz.
“We are in contact with local authorities and partners in the region.”
The US blamed Iran for the Fujairah attack last month, with US National Security Adviser John Bolton stating: “It’s clear that Iran is behind the Fujairah attack.
“Who else would you think would be doing it? Someone from Nepal?”
And State Secretary Mike Pompeo said the attack had been carried out to raise the global price of oil.
Tehran has denied claims it carried out the attack using naval mines.
According to Bloomberg, the price of Brent oil crude jumped by 4.5% in the wake of this morning’s attack.