Ten sailors are missing and five were injured after a U.S. warship collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore on Monday, the U.S. Navy said, the second accident involving U.S. Navy destroyers in Asian waters in little more than two months.
The guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with the merchant vessel Alnic MC before dawn while heading to Singapore for a routine port call, the Navy said in a statement.
“Initial reports indicate John S. McCain sustained damage to her port side aft,” the Navy said. “There are currently 10 sailors missing and five injured.”
Four of the injured were evacuated by helicopter to a hospital in Singapore with non-life threatening injuries, while the fifth needed no further treatment, it said.
The USS John S. McCain’s sister ship, the USS Fitzgerald, almost sank off the coast of Japan after it was struck by a Philippine container ship on June 17.
Collisions between warships and other large vessels are extremely rare, with naval historians going back more than 50 years to find a similar previous incident.
A search-and-rescue mission was under way for the sailors missing from the USS John S. McCain involving Singaporean ships, helicopters and tug boats, as well as U.S. Navy aircraft.
Reuters video footage from the Singapore Strait showed an area of impact about 6 meters (20 ft) wide in the John S. McCain’s port side, with crew members lining her decks. At 0600 GMT, the warship was seen moving towards Singapore’s Changi Naval Base under its own steam, accompanied by two vessels.
A crew member on the Alnic MC told Reuters by telephone there was no oil spill from the Liberian-flagged, 183 meter-long (600 ft) tanker, which was carrying almost 12,000 tonnes of fuel oil from Taiwan to discharge in Singapore.
“We have not discharged the tanker yet,” said the crew member, who asked not to be identified.