7 missing as US Navy destroyer collides with merchant ship off Japan

7 missing as US Navy destroyer collides with merchant ship off Japan

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Seven sailors missing after USS Fitzgerald collides with merchant ship off Japan

U.S. and Japanese vessels and aircraft searched Saturday for seven American sailors who were missing after the US Navy destroyer collided with a container ship four times its size off the coast of Japan.

The 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal, a 29,000-ton container ship flagged in the Philippines, collided early Saturday, US officials said.

The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage.

“The collision [a]ffected 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, which damage-control teams quickly began dewatering,” the US Navy release said.

Footage from the Japanese TV network NHK showed heavy damage to the mid-right side of the USS Fitzgerald and a person in a stretcher being lifted to a helicopter.

This picture shows damages on the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald off the Shimoda coast after it collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship on June 17, 2017. AFP via Getty Images

This picture shows damages on the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald off the Shimoda coast after it collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship on June 17, 2017. – AFP via Getty Images

“This has been a difficult day,” Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, commander of the US 7th Fleet, said.

The ship’s Commander Bryce Benson was taken to the US Naval Hospital in Yokosuka and was in stable condition, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement.

“Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the sailors,” said Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet.

Aided by tug boats, the USS Fitzgerald arrived back at its home port in Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo by sunset on Saturday.

The cause of the collision between the destroyer and the container is not clear yet. Most of the more than 200 sailors would have been asleep in their berthings, some of which were reportedly flooded.

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