Ten sailors missing after US destroyer collision off Singapore

 21 Aug 2017 - 8:54

Ten sailors missing after US destroyer collision off Singapore
The John S. McCain, a guided-missile destroyer, seen after a collision, near Johor, Malaysia, on Monday. / Reuters.

AFP

Singapore: Ten US sailors were missing and five injured Monday after their destroyer collided with a tanker east of Singapore, in the second accident involving an American warship in two months. 

The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC near the Straits of Malacca in the early hours, the US Navy said.

"Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft," it said in a statement as the ship headed to port in Singapore.

"There are currently 10 sailors missing and five injured... Search and rescue efforts are underway in coordination with local authorities."

Four of the injured sailors were evacuated from the warship to a Singapore hospital by helicopter with non life-threatening injuries while the fifth did not require further medical attention, the navy said.

The destroyer was sailing under its own power after the collision with the Liberian-flagged tanker at 5:24 am (2124 GMT Sunday). The ship had been heading for a routine stop in Singapore. 

The vessel is named after US Senator John McCain's father and grandfather, who were both admirals in the US navy.

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

President Donald Trump initially said "that's too bad" in response to reporters' shouted questions about the collision, as he arrived back at the White House after a holiday.

He followed up with a Tweet: "Thoughts & prayers are w/ our @USNavy sailors aboard the #USSJohnSMcCain where search & rescue efforts are underway."

It was the second recent collision involving a US warship after seven sailors died in June when the destroyer USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged cargo ship in a busy channel in Japan.

- Air-sea search -

After the latest incident Monday, a major search and rescue operation was launched. 

Singapore sent three tugboats, and four navy and police coastguard vessels while Malaysia -- whose southern Johor state was close to the collision -- deployed eight ships and said it was going to send aircraft to help in the search.

A US helicopter was taking part in the search and two other American aircraft were expected to arrive soon, the navy said.

The ship involved in the accident is a Liberian-flagged tanker used for transporting oil and chemicals and weighing over 30,000 tonnes, according to industry website Marine Traffic. 

The tanker sustained some damage but no crew were injured, Singapore's Maritime and Port Authority said. There were no reports of oil pollution and maritime traffic in Singapore waters was unaffected, it said.

In the June accident, the collision happened in a busy channel not far from Yokosuka, a gateway to container ports in the Japanese capital Tokyo and nearby Yokohama.

The dead sailors, aged 19 to 37, were found by divers in flooded sleeping berths a day after the collision tore a huge gash in the side of the Fitzgerald.

A senior admiral announced last week that the commander of the destroyer and several other officers were relieved of their duties aboard their ship over the incident.

Both the USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald are part of the US Seventh Fleet, based in Yokosuka.