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Navy sailors remain missing; flooding on USS Fitzgerald stabilized

18 June 2017

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, damaged by colliding with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel, is towed by a tugboat upon its arrival at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Japan June 17, 2017.

The Fitzgerald, an Aegis guided missile destroyer, collided with the merchant vessel some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, the Navy said.

The US and Japan launched a major search operation to find seven missing American sailors on June 17 after their navy destroyer collided with a container ship, crushing the side of the military vessel. The U.S. Navy says the USS Fitzgerald suffered damage below the water line on its starboard side after it collided with a Philippine-flagged merchant ship. Several other crew members were injured and had to be evacuated by air to hospital, including the guided missile destroyer's commanding officer Bryce Benson.

The warship was towed back to Yokosuka, escorted by a Japanese coast guard ship, naval officials said. Seven U.S. sailors are missing, and three sailors were medically evacuated due to injuries sustained in the collision. As of late afternoon local time, the 7th Fleet said the crew members were still unaccounted for.

"All our thoughts and concerns are with the Fitzgerald crew and their families".

Japan's Nippon Yusen KK, which charters the container ship, ASX Crystal, said in a statement it would "cooperate fully" with the Coast Guard's investigation of the incident.

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The Japanese Coastguard was assisting in the search.

The larger size of the container ship could have left the smaller United States destroyer vulnerable in the collision, Schuster said.

Her grandson Jackson Schrimsher is a 23-year-old sailor aboard the USS Fitzgerald. It is operated by Nippon Yusen K.K., a Japanese shipping company, and was on its way from Nagoya port at the time of the collision.

Family members were frantically seeking news, appealing via social media for calls from sailors aboard the ship.

The Philippine ship weighs 29,060 tons and is 222 meters (730 feet) long, the coast guard said, much larger than the 8,315-ton Navy destroyer.

The USS Dewey, medical assistance and two Navy tugs were also being dispatched as quickly as possible, the US Navy said. All 20 Filipino crew members aboard the ship were safe, it added.

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Aikawa said the USA ship is partially flooded because of damage.

The merchant vessel involved is the ACX Crystal, a container ship flagged in the Philippines, officials said.

Local broadcaster NHK showed helicopter footage of the container ship with minor damage to its bow, while the Fitzgerald appeared to have significant damage both above and below the waterline.

Vice Admiral Joseph P Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet, said: "This has been a hard day".

"This has been a hard day", said Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet.

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