A fire that broke out on board two Tanzanian-flagged cargo tankers travelling off the coast of Russia has claimed the lives of ten people.

Around ten crew members were found missing following the incident, which took place in the Kerch Strait near Crimea, according to Russia’s Novorossiysk maritime rescue centre.

The Kerch Strait between Crimea and southern Russia is a focus of tension between Russia and Ukraine.

A spokesperson from Novorossiysk was quoted by TASS as saying: “Search continues. According to latest reports, ten people remain missing, ten bodies were recovered, and 12 people were rescued.

“The fire on ships continues blazing. It will not be extinguished until all the gas burns out.”

“Russia’s Federal Agency for the Sea and River Transport said that the fire occurred when one vessel was pumping fuel to the other.”

The spokesperson further noted that bad weather conditions had impacted rescue operations and delayed the process of bringing the rescued crew back to shore.

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During the time of the incident, 17 crew members were on board one of the cargo tankers named Candy. Nine of them were from Turkey and eight from India.

The other vessel, Maestro, was carrying 15 crew members, with seven each from Turkey and India, as well as one intern from Libya.

According to Russia’s transport ministry, the crew members on board the ships jumped into the sea to escape the fire.

Russia’s Federal Agency for the Sea and River Transport said that the fire occurred when one vessel was pumping fuel to the other.

A search operation is currently underway to rescue the missing crew members, reported theguardian.com.