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Aircraft, vessels search for missing U.S. sailors

"Right now we are focused on two things: the safety of the ship and the well-being of the sailors", said Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The collision affected the Fitzgerald's forward starboard, or right, side above and below the water line, causing significant damage and associated flooding to two berthing spaces, a machinery space and the radio room, which damage control teams quickly began dewatering, according to a release.

The U.S. Navy is searching for seven sailors after a destroyer collided with a merchant ship more than three times its size near Japan, according to the military.

Navy chief Adm. John Richardson says Navy, Japanese maritime defense vessels and the Japanese coast guard are working to stabilize the badly damaged ship.

The U.S. Navy said damaged areas of the ship will also be searched after the ship is safely docked.

The collision between the USS Fitzgerald guided missile destroyer and the Filipino ACX Crystal occurred 100 kilometers southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

The vessel was taking on water after the incident, but the crew was working to stabilise the ship by pumping water out of the hold, the official said.

The Japan Coast Guard sent patrol vessels and an airplane and Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force dispatched a helicopter to search for the missing crew members, joined by a US aircraft.

The merchant vessel with which the Fitzgerald collided is the ACX Crystal, a container ship flagged in the Philippines, officials said.

The official said emergency procedures have been put in place and the ship is not in danger of sinking at this time.

"It could have been worse, so we're grateful", she said.




Televised media reports showed that the 154 meter-long US guided-missile destroyer had suffered considerable damage to its right side, although the destroyer, part of the USA 7th Fleet, returned to the Yokosuka Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, about 50 km southwest of Tokyo, unassisted.

The United States has primary jurisdiction regarding incidents involving members of US forces under the bilateral status of forces agreement.

The waterways approaching Tokyo Bay are busy with commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan's two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

Aikawa said the US ship is partially flooded because of damage and not capable of moving by itself.

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. US Naval aircraft are also being readied to help, said the statement.

Nippon Yusen K.K., the Japanese shipping company that operates the container ship that collided with a U.S. Navy destroyer, says its 20-member crew all safe.

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

Japan's coast guard, which is probing the incident, said it has sent a half dozen vessels, several aircraft and a team of specially trained rescue personnel to the scene.

Three sailors, including the destroyer's commanding officer, Cmdr.

The right side of the USS Fitzgerald is seen off Shimoda, Shizuoka prefecture, Japan, after the Navy destroyer collided with a merchant ship. Now working with the Japanese Coast Guard to conduct a medevac via helicopter for one Sailor.

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