Mumbai: A container ship off the Agatti island in the Arabian Sea continued to burn after more than 36 hours on Thursday, even as the condition of a rescued Thai sailor is reported to be "critical", an official said.
The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) has deployed a high speed interceptor boat from Vizhinjam Port to pick up and rush the Thai crewman to a hospital on Thursday.
Late on Tuesday, following a massive explosion, a fire broke out on the Singapore-flagged vessel, Maersk Honam, carrying a cargo of chemicals en route to Suez in Egypt, an ICG spokesperson said.
Since Wednesday, of the 27 crew members, including 13 Indians, 24 have been rescued. The Thai national, rescued by a foreign merchant vessel MV ALS Ceres, has been in a serious condition.
The rescued sailors were on their way to Thiruvananthapuram, around 90 nautical miles from the disaster site.
Four more, including an Indian sailor, are still missing and a maritime and aerial search with helicopters and an aircraft has been undertaken to trace them.
The ICG said that the intensity of the blaze, with flames leaping more than 25 metres into the air, was so strong that the high temperature has melted many of the containers on board.
A special fire fighting vessel, ICG Shoor has already reached the Maersk Honam and begun efforts to control the conflagration from which thick toxic fumes were emanating.
The ICG teams found some empty lifeboats floating in the vicinity but no sign of the missing crewmen so far.
The explosion and fire rocked the Maersk Honam, a 353m long and 54m wide ship carrying 7,860 containers around 1,300 km off the west of Kochi in Kerala, near the Agatti Isles in the Lakshadweep Islands, off the south-west coast of India.
Shortly thereafter, the crew had abandoned the Maersk Honam as the blaze went out of control and were rescued by MV ALS Ceres after a few hours.