American and Japanese aircraft and surface vessels continued to search for seven U.S. sailors missing after a U.S. Navy destroyer collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Japan a day earlier.
CNN reports: The smaller guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald suffered severe damage to its starboard side.
“The collision affected Fitzgerald’s forward starboard side above and below the water line, causing significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the radio room,” according to a statement from US 7th Fleet.
The statement hinted that the missing sailors could be trapped in the damaged area of the destroyer.
“It remains uncertain how long it will take to gain access to the spaces once the ship is pier side … to methodically continue the search for the missing,” the statement said.
The two ships collided around 1:30 a.m. local time Saturday in the Pacific Ocean, about 56 nautical miles southwest from the port of Yokosuka and 12 miles off the Izu Peninsula, the Japanese coast guard said
The Fitzgerald had left the US naval base in Yokosuka, where it is based, earlier Friday for routine operations in the area, a US Naval Forces Japan spokesman said.
The warship was towed back to Yokosuka, escorted by a Japanese coast guard ship, naval officials said. It arrived at port late Saturday, when divers began inspecting the damage.
Earlier, the ship’s commander, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was evacuated by a Japanese naval helicopter while US military copters evacuated two injured US sailors. All three are in stable condition at the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, said Cmdr. Ron Flanders, public affairs officer for US Naval Forces Japan.
Five Japanese Maritime Self Defense force ships were leading the search for the missing US sailors at the site of the collision, joined by another US warship, the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey, the 7th Fleet said. US and Japanese aircraft also were involved.
No one hurt on merchant ship
The merchant vessel involved is the ACX Crystal, a container ship flagged in the Philippines, officials said. It is chartered by Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) and owned by Dainichi-Invest Corporation, NYK said.
No one aboard the Crystal was hurt, and no oil spilled from the vessel, NYK said.
NYK and the ship’s owner are cooperating a Japan Coast Guard investigation into the collision, the shipping firm said.
“Our thoughts and deep concerns go out to all those directly affected,” NYK said.
The ship-tracking website marinetraffic.com shows the ship had left the Japanese port of Nagoya on Friday evening. It was expected to dock at a Tokyo Bay port around 4:30 p.m. local time, officials said after the wreck, adding that the container ship was operating under charter to a Japanese shipping company.
Photos of the Crystal showed damage to its bow.
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