US NAVY officials have confirmed that seven sailors are missing and three more, including the commanding officer, have been injured after a collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a Philippine-flagged merchant ship off the coast of Japan.
The Fitzgerald was damaged above and below the water line on the starboard side near the bridge, a Navy official said.
There are seven sailors unaccounted for and the Japanese Coast Guard continues to search for them.
The collision happened about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday about 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka naval base near the Izu Peninsula, a Navy statement said.
Officials said the full extent of injuries and damage have yet to be determined but flooding had been stabilised and sailors from the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey were assisting with “damage control efforts,” according to a tweet from the 7th Fleet’s official account.
“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 US Pacific Fleet. “We thank our Japanese partners for their assistance.”
Naval base spokesman Sean Kelly said Yokosuka Naval Base has established a family assistance centre to relay information to family members at the base and in the States, “We have support. We’re here for the families.”
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is crewed by 33 commissioned officers, 38 chief petty officers and 210 enlisted personnel.
Commanding officer Bryce Benson only took tenure of the ship on 13 May 2017.
Officials identified the merchant vessel as the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal. The ship is 29,060 gross tons and the Fitzgerald is roughly 8,230 tons.