The Iranian navy's largest warship caught fire and sank Wednesday in the Gulf of Oman, according to reports.
The support warship Kharg sank under unclear circumstances near the Iranian port of Jask, about 790 miles southeast of Tehran, semiofficial news agencies reported.
Firefighters tried to contain the blaze, which ignited around 2:25 a.m., but efforts to save the Kharg – named after the island that serves as the main oil terminal for Iran – were unsuccessful, according to the Fars and Tasnim news agencies.
Sailors were captured evacuating the vessel as the fire burned behind them, photos posted on Iranian social media showed. Video published by Fars also showed thick, black smoke rising from the ship early Wednesday morning.
Iranian officials have yet to say what caused the blaze.
The Kharg – described by State TV and the semiofficial news agencies as a "training ship" – can lift heavy cargo and serve as a launch point for helicopters. It's also one of the only vessels in the Iranian navy capable of providing replenishment at sea for its other ships. The ship was built in Britain and launched in 1977, before entering the Iranian navy in 1984.
Iran's navy typically handles patrols in the Gulf of Oman and the wider seas, while the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard operates in the shallower waters of the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. In recent months, however, the navy launched a slightly larger commercial tanker called the Makran it converted into serving a similar function as the Kharg.
The fire occurred 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.
Iran denied targeting the vessels, though U.S. Navy footage showed Revolutionary Guard members removing one unexploded limpet mine from a vessel.
The incidents came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.
In April, an Iranian ship called the MV Saviz believed to be a Guard base and anchored for years in the Red Sea off Yemen was targeted in an attack suspected to have been carried out by Israel. It escalated a yearslong shadow war in Mideast waters between the two 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 Jask, killing 19 sailors and wounding 15. In 2018, an Iranian navy destroyer sank in the Caspian Sea.
The Associated Press contributed to this report