The largest warship in the Iranian navy caught fire and later sank Wednesday, leaving unclear circumstances behind. The Fars and Tasnim news agencies said efforts failed to save the support warship Kharg, named after an island that serves as a major oil terminal for Iran; which is now up to speculation if this act was done intentionally or not.
A fire broke out on the Iranian military training ship, Kharg at 2:25 a.m., according to Fars News Agency and state TV sources. The blaze is believed to have been caused by an electrical issue. Photos of sailors wearing life jackets began circulating as they evacuated from their burning vessel near Jack in Iran's southeastern coast with surrounding smoke rising from the boat early Wednesday morning because it was "a training ship."
The incident occurred when videos published online showed thick black smoke coming out of the poop deck where flames were shooting up; this happened before 3 am in eastern Tehran (Iran).
Satellite photos show that the Kharg was to the west of Jack on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. Reports by Fars showed a fire starting before the time at the site of what has been determined as being Jack.
The Kharg has been a part of the Iranian Navy since 1984 and is designed to serve as both an aircraft carrier for helicopters, but also as a replenishment ship that can help other vessels with fuel. The warship was originally built in Britain and launched on May 15th, 1977 before being transferred over to Iran after many negotiations following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Iranian officials offered no cause for the fire aboard the Kharg. However, it comes after a series of mysterious explosions that began in 2019 targeting ships in the Gulf of Oman. The U.S. Navy later accused Iran of targeting the ships with limpet mines, timed explosives typically attached by divers to a vessel’s hull.
Recently, the Iranian navy launched a slightly larger commercial tanker called Makran to patrol their waters. The launch of this ship coincides with Iran’s recent build-up in military power and its aggressive stance towards other countries.
The sinking of the Kharg marks the latest naval disaster for Iran. In 2020 during an Iranian military training exercise, a missile mistakenly struck a naval vessel near the port of Jack, killing19 sailors and wounding 15. Also in 2018, an Iranian navy destroyer sank in the Caspian Sea.