Extraordinary images reveal the scale of the explosion that ripped through an oil tanker following a suspected torpedo attack off the coast of Iran.
The photographs show the fireball that erupted across the flank of the Front Altair as it was crossing the Gulf of Oman.
Reports say a second vessel, the Kokuka Courageous, was targeted by a magnetic mine in a “suspicious” series of explosions at the same time.
The two stricken vessels were both carrying crude oil and reports in Iran are claiming the Front Altair has sunk.
However the vessel’s owner, shipping firm Frontline, denied the reports and claimed the tanker remains afloat.
Shipping company Berhard Schulte, owner of the Kokuka Corageous, described the incident as a “suspected attack,” confirming damage to the ship’s hull in the form of a starboard side breach on its hull.
Crews have been rescued from both the Front Altair and the amid the dramatic scenes in the Gulf, around 25 miles off the Iranian coast.
Iran search and rescue teams plucked 44 sailors from the tankers. There have been no immediate reports of deaths.
Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described the incident as “suspicious”.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is set to meet with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei “for extensive and friendly talks” tweeted following the incident.
“Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” he wrote.
Crude oil prices spiked immediately following the incident.
The apparent attacks come amid escalating tensions over the commodity.
On May 12, four oil tankers were attacked off the Emirati coast, leading to the US accusing Iran of sabotaging the ships in an attempt to inflate oil prices.
UK authorities are also aiding the investigation.