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US Warship Collides, 10 Missing

The destroyer USS John S. McCain, with a hole on its portside after a collision with an oil tanker, makes its way to Changi naval base in Singapore on August 21.The destroyer USS John S. McCain, with a hole on its portside after a collision with an oil tanker, makes its way to Changi naval base in Singapore on August 21.

Vessels from several nations are searching Southeast Asian waters for 10 missing US 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 US Navy's 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months.

Vessels and aircraft from the US, 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 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 US 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.

US 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.

 

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