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Turtle dies as oil reaches Japan coasts after Iran tanker collision

A green turtle is found dead on the coast of Amami-Oshima Island. (Photo courtesy of the Environment Ministry)

KAGOSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) -- A green turtle has died as oil reached the coast of Japan's southern Amami-Oshima Island, the local government said Thursday, but it is not clear whether the oil came from an Iranian oil tanker that sank in nearby waters last month.

    Clumps of oil were found washed up on the shores of Amami-Oshima Island and Yaku Island in Kagoshima Prefecture over the past week. On Amami-Oshima Island, officials of the Environment Ministry and the Kagoshima prefectural government cleaned up the oil slick on Thursday.

    The Japan Coast Guard's regional headquarters has said it has not been able to confirm links between the pollution affecting the Japanese islands and the oil spill following the tanker collision accident on Jan. 6. It will continue studying the oil.

    The dead turtle was removed from the coast of Amami-Oshima Island on Tuesday and the prefectural government was looking into the cause of its death.

    As oil was found adhered to inside the dead turtle's mouth, the prefectural government said it believes the turtle died due to the clumps of oil drifting in the sea.

    In the accident, the Panama-registered tanker Sanchi, which was sailing from Iran to South Korea and carrying 136,000 tons of oil condensate, an ultra-light type of crude oil that will evaporate, collided with a cargo ship off Shanghai.

    The tanker burst into flames and drifted into Japan's exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea. It was about 315 kilometers west of Amami-Oshima Island before sinking in mid-January.

    The Sanchi is also believed to have been carrying about 2,120 tons of heavy oil to use as fuel, according to the Japan Coast Guard.

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