UPDATE 1-Five killed in South Korean ship explosion

Sun Jan 15, 2012 3:54am EST

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(Change in death toll, Adds details)

SEOUL Jan 15 (Reuters) - An explosion struck a cargo ship carrying petroleum in waters off South Korea's western port city of Incheon on Sunday, killing five people, the coast guard said. Six crew were missing.

A Korea Coast Guard spokesman said the explosion on the 4,191-tonne freight ship, with 16 crewmen -- 11 Koreans and 5 Myanmarese -- on board, happened in waters north of Jawol Island near Incheon. Five people, including the captain, were rescued.

At least two of the dead crewmen were Myanmarese, the spokesman said. The coast guard was trying to identify the bodies of the other crew.

A TV footage showed the explosion tore the ship almost into two parts leaving it half-submerged. No oil leakage was reported.

The ship was heading south to return to Daesan, another port on the west coast, after unloading gasoline at the Incheon port.

The cause of the explosion was not known immediately but the Yonhap news agency quoted the captain of the ill-fated vessel as saying the blast had occurred while the crew was draining gasoline vapors from an oil tank on the deck to remove residues.

He said that static electricity may have ignited the gas, causing the explosion.

(Reporting by Sung-won Shim; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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