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Search for Missing After US Collision  08/21 06:09

   Vessels from several nations are searching Southeast Asian waters for 10 
missing U.S. sailors after an early morning collision Monday between the USS 
John S. McCain and an oil tanker ripped a gaping hole in the destroyer's hull.

   SINGAPORE (AP) -- Vessels from several nations are searching Southeast Asian 
waters for 10 missing U.S. sailors after an early morning collision Monday 
between the USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker ripped a gaping hole in the 
destroyer's hull.

   The collision east of Singapore between the guided missile destroyer and the 
183-meter (600-foot) Alnic MC was the second involving a ship from the U.S. 
Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months.

   Vessels and aircraft from the U.S., Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia are 
searching for the missing sailors. Four other sailors were evacuated by a 
Singaporean navy helicopter to a hospital in the city-state for treatment of 
non-life threatening injuries, the Navy said. A fifth injured sailor did not 
require further medical attention.

   The McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after 
conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing 
near one of China's man-made islands in the South China Sea.

   The Navy's 7th Fleet said "significant damage" to the McCain's hull resulted 
in the flooding of adjacent compartments including crew berths, machinery and 
communications rooms. A damage control response prevented further flooding, it 
said.

   The destroyer was damaged on its port side aft, or left rear, in the 5:24 
a.m. collision about 4.5 nautical miles (8.3 kilometers) from Malaysia's coast 
but sailed on to Singapore's naval base under its own power. Malaysia's 
Maritime Enforcement Agency said the area is at the start of a designated sea 
lane for ships sailing into the Singapore Strait, one of the world's busiest 
shipping lanes.

   A photo tweeted by Malaysian navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin 
showed a large rupture in the McCain's side near the waterline. Janes, a 
defense industry publication, estimated the hull breach was 3 meters (10 feet) 
wide.

   One of the injured sailors, Operations Specialist 2nd Class Navin Ramdhun, 
posted a Facebook message telling family and friends he was OK and awaiting 
surgery for an arm injury.

   He told The Associated Press in a message that he couldn't say what 
happened. "I was actually sleeping at that time. Not entirely sure."

   The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged 
Alnic, which sustained damage to a compartment at the front of the ship some 7 
meters (23 feet) above its waterline. There were no reports of a chemical or 
oil spill.

   Several safety violations were recorded for the tanker at its last port 
inspection in July.

   Singapore sent tugboats and naval and coast guard vessels to search for the 
missing sailors and Indonesia said it sent two warships. Malaysia said three 
ships and five boats as well as aircraft from its navy and air force were 
helping with the search, and the USS America deployed Osprey aircraft and 
Seahawk helicopters.

   There was no immediate explanation for the collision, and the Navy said an 
investigation would be conducted. Singapore, at the southernmost tip of the 
Malay Peninsula, is one of the world's busiest ports and a U.S. ally, with its 
naval base regularly visited by American warships.

   The collision was the second involving a ship from the Navy's 7th Fleet in 
the Pacific in two months. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald 
and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

   The Fitzgerald's captain was relieved of his command and other sailors were 
being punished after the Navy found poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch 
contributed to the collision, the Navy announced last week. An investigation 
into how and why the Fitzgerald collided with the other ship was not finished, 
but enough details were known to take those actions, the Navy said.

   The Greek owner of the tanker, Stealth Maritime Corp. S.A., replaced its 
website with a notice that says it is cooperating with the Maritime Port 
Authority of Singapore's investigation and with "other responding agencies." It 
says "thoughts and prayers are with the families of the missing U.S. Navy 
sailors."

   An official database for ports in Asia shows the Alnic was last inspected in 
the Chinese port of Dongying on July 29 and had one document deficiency, one 
fire safety deficiency and two safety of navigation problems.

   The database doesn't go into details and the problems were apparently not 
serious enough for the Liberian-flagged vessel to be detained by the port 
authority.

   U.S. President Donald Trump expressed concern for the McCain's crew.

   Trump returned to Washington on Sunday night from his New Jersey golf club. 
When reporters shouted questions to him about the McCain, he responded, "That's 
too bad."

   About two hours later, Trump tweeted that "thoughts and prayers" are with 
the McCain's sailors as search and rescue efforts continue.

   The 154-meter (505-foot) destroyer is named after U.S. Sen. John McCain's 
father and grandfather, who were both U.S. admirals. It's based at the 7th 
Fleet's homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. It was commissioned in 1994 and has a crew 
of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according the 
Navy's website.

   McCain said on Twitter that he and his wife, Cindy, are "keeping America's 
sailors aboard the USS John S McCain in our prayers tonight --- appreciate the 
work of search & rescue crews."


(KA)

 
 
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