One of Iran”s largest navy ships sank on Wednesday after catching fire in the Gulf of Oman under unclear circumstances, local news agencies reported.
Iran’s army said nearly 400 crew and trainees were on board the vessel, and that all were safely evacuated.
The blaze began around 2:25 am and firefighters tried to contain it, according to the Fars news agency. The vessel later sank near the Iranian port of Jask, some 1,270 kilometers southeast of Tehran near the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Gulf.
The waterway is a vital link for oil tankers entering and leaving the Gulf, and it has repeatedly been a flashpoint for tensions between the United States and Iran.
Photos circulated on Iranian social media of sailors wearing life jackets evacuating the vessel as a fire raged behind them. State TV and semiofficial news agencies described the Kharg as a “training ship, but it’s thought to have a had key supply role.
Iranian officials offered no cause for the fire. It comes after a series of mysterious explosions that began in 2019 targeting ships in the Gulf of Oman. The US Navy later accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, timed explosives typically attached by divers to a vessel’s hull.
Iran denied targeting the vessels, though US Navy footage showed Revolutionary Guard members removing one unexploded limpet mine from a vessel.
The incidents came amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.