Search goes on for seven US sailors after collision off Japan

"Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the Sailors", Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in a statement. Bryce Benson, were evacuated from the damaged vessel and are being treated at the U.S. naval hospital at Yokosuka, the home of the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet.

The USS Fitzgerald is approaching its home port at the Yokosuka Naval Base, south of Tokyo, after colliding before dawn Saturday with a container ship four times its size, leaving seven sailors missing.

"I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald sailors who contained the flooding, stabilized the ship and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances", Navy Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Task Force 70, said in a release.

The search was on for seven United States sailors missing after an American warship and a merchant vessel collided off the coast of Japan, as USA forces and Japanese authorities worked to figure out why the vessels struck each other.

The two ships collided in the Pacific Ocean about 56 nautical miles off the coast of Yokosuka.

The navy said the crash caused "significant damage" and flooding in two berthing spaces, a machinery space, and the ship's radio room.

Water was being pumped out of flooded areas, and it was unclear how long it would take to get into the crushed mid-right side of the ship once it was at the pier in Yokosuka, the statement said.

The Japan Coast Guard has confirmed that seven crew members of a U.S. Navy destroyer are missing after a collision with a Philippine-flagged merchant ship off the coast of Japan.

The ACX Crystal, a 222-metre (730ft) Filipino-flagged container ship, was travelling between the Japanese cities of Nagoya and Tokyo.

He is in stable condition, the Navy said.

The US Navy's 7th Fleet Twitter account said the Navy is working with the Japanese coast guard to conduct a medical evacuation of the injured.

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Japan's Kyodo News service says the Japanese coast guard is investigating the incident with the U.S. Navy and plans to question the crew members of the ACX Crystal.

U.S. Naval Forces Japan said an emergency family assistance center was established and families had phone numbers they could call for more information.

Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on May 13.

NYK and the ship's owner are cooperating a Japan Coast Guard investigation into the collision, the shipping firm said.

The Japanese Coastguard said that between 400 and 500 ships operate in the area the collision occurred in each day.

The rules require that ships must have a watch posted at all times and follow a number of collision-avoidance steps when crossing paths with or overtaking other vessels. So far no damage or injuries have been reported on the container ship, he said.

Footage from Japanese broadcaster NHK showed a person in a stretcher being lifted from the deck to a Japan Coast Guard helicopter.

A huge search and rescue operation is underway in the sea off Japan, after USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippines registered merchant vessel.

The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage. The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey served as an escort for the Fitzgerald and has also returned to Yokosuka.

"We can't comment on the accident as it's being handled by the Japanese coast guard", a company spokesman told AFP.

  • Alfonso Moody