One missing in Japan tanker explosion

Aerial footage from the scene shows coastguard vessels attempting to control the fire

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An explosion has occurred on a tanker off Japan's coast, officials say.

The 998-tonne Shoko Maru had already unloaded its oil cargo at a port in Hyogo prefecture and was not laden when the incident happened.

The captain of the tanker was missing, the Japanese coast guard said.

Seven other crew members have been rescued. The coast guard was working to douse the flames, with pictures showing black smoke filling the air.

The explosion happened at around 09:20 local time (00:20 GMT).

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe interrupted a debate in parliament on Thursday to announce the incident.

In this photo released by Japan's 5th Regional Coast Guard, clouds of black smoke billow from Shoko Maru, a 998-ton Japanese oil tanker, after it exploded off the southwest coast near Himeji port, western Japan, Thursday, 29 May 2014 The vessel had already unloaded its oil cargo before the blast
This handout picture taken and released by Japan"s Coast Guard on 29 May 2014 shows a Coast Guard boat (L) fighting a fire onboard the 998-tonne oil tanker Shoko-Maru (R) off the coast of Hyogo prefecture, around 450 kilometres (280 miles) west of Tokyo Four of the crew members on the tanker suffered serious injuries

"In waters off Hyogo [prefecture], a tanker has exploded and is currently in flames," he said.

Four of the crew members sustained serious injuries, according to reports.

"I heard that a crew member was using a grinder to remove paint and that seems to have triggered the blast, which we believe could have occurred when the remnants of the oil caught fire," Akihiro Komura, from Syoho Shipping company which owns the ship, told AFP news agency .

He added that all the crew members were Japanese nationals.

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