Latest: Bodies found on flooded US warship after collision

Update 1.23pm: A number of bodies have been found on a flooded US warship after 10 sailors went missing when it collided with an oil tanker in south-east Asian waters, the US Pacific Fleet said.

Navy and Marine Corps divers entered flooded compartments on the USS John S McCain after the collision happened east of Singapore at daybreak on Monday.

The collision tore a gaping hole in the McCain's left rear hull and flooded compartments including crew berths and machinery and communication rooms.

The warship is now docked at Singapore's naval base.

It was the second major collision in two months involving the Pacific-based 7th Fleet and the navy has ordered a broad investigation into its performance and readiness.

Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

Admiral Scott Swift said: "The divers were able to locate some remains in those sealed compartments during their search today.

"We will continue the search and rescue operations until the probability of discovering sailors is exhausted."

Earlier:

Navy and Marine Corps divers are to enter flooded compartments on a US warship to search for 10 sailors missing after it collided with an oil tanker in south-east Asian waters, the 7th Fleet said today.

The sea search of the USS John S McCain by aircraft and ships from the US, Singapore and Malaysian navies will continue east of Singapore where the collision happened at daybreak on Monday, the 7th Fleet said, but the shift of focus to the destroyer itself is a blow to families still hoping for a miracle.

"Equipped with surface supplied air rigs, divers will access sealed compartments located in damaged parts of the ship," the fleet said in a statement announcing that divers had joined the search. "Additionally, they will conduct damage assessments of the hull and flooded areas."

The collision tore a gaping hole in the McCain's left rear hull and flooded adjacent compartments including crew berths and machinery and communication rooms. Five sailors were injured.

The warship is now docked at Singapore's naval base.

It was the second major collision in two months involving the Pacific-based 7th Fleet and the navy has ordered a broad investigation into its performance and readiness. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

Megan Partlow, of Ohio, whose fiancé was on board the McCain, told the Associated Press in a Facebook message that they last communicated on Sunday and she was losing hope of seeing him again.

"My last text to him was 'Be safe', which is the same way we end every conversation. I'm just ready for answers," she said. The identities of the missing have not been disclosed but Ms Partlow said her fiancé's parents were in touch with the navy's family assistance centre.

Admiral John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, on Monday ordered a pause in 7th Fleet operations for the next couple of days to allow commanders to get together with leaders, sailors and command officials and identify any immediate steps that need to be taken to ensure safety.

A broader US Navy review will look at the 7th Fleet's performance, including personnel, navigation capabilities, maintenance, equipment, surface warfare training, munitions, certifications and how sailors move through their careers.

Admiral Richardson said the review will be carried out with the help of the navy's office of the inspector general, the safety centre and private companies that make equipment used by sailors.

The McCain had been heading to Singapore on a routine port visit after conducting a sensitive freedom-of-navigation operation last week by sailing near one of China's man-made islands in the South China Sea.

The guided-missile destroyer and the Alnic MC oil tanker collided about 4.5 nautical miles (8.3km) from the coast of Malaysia at the start of a designated sea lane for ships sailing into the busy Singapore Strait.

There was no immediate explanation for the collision. Singapore, at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, is one of the world's busiest ports and a US ally, with its naval base regularly visited by American warships.

The Singapore government said no crew were injured on the Liberian-flagged Alnic, which suffered damage to a compartment at the starboard, or right, side at the front of the ship some 23ft (7m) above its waterline.

The ship had a partial load of fuel oil, according to the Greek owner of the tanker, Stealth Maritime Corp, but there was no apparent spill.

Several safety violations were recorded for the oil tanker at its last port inspection in July, one fire safety deficiency and two safety-of-navigation problems.

The official database for ports in Asia does not go into details and the problems were apparently not serious enough for the tanker to be detained.


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