Sunday 22 July 2018

'Too bad' - anger at Trump reaction to missing sailors

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters. Photo: Reuters
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain is seen after a collision, in Singapore waters. Photo: Reuters

Chris Graham in Washington

Ten US sailors were missing after a US destroyer collided with an oil tanker in southeast Asia, the second serious accident involving American navy ships in the region in little more than two months.

Returning to the White House, President Donald Trump responded to reporters' questions about the accident by saying: "That's too bad."

Donald Trump. Photo: AP
Donald Trump. Photo: AP

Strongly criticised on social media for his response, he later tweeted: "Thoughts & prayers are w/our @USNavy sailors aboard the #USSJohnSMcCain where search & rescue efforts are underway."

The USS John S McCain was involved in a collision with the Alnic MC east of Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, the US 7th Fleet said in a statement.

The collision with the tanker happened at 5.24am local time as the guided-missile destroyer was heading to Singapore for a routine visit.

"There are currently 10 sailors missing and five injured," the Japan-based 7th Fleet said.

Four of the injured were airlifted to a Singapore hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The fifth injured sailor did not require further medical attention.

"Our first priority is determining the safety of the ship and crew," Admiral John Richardson, chief of naval operations, wrote on Twitter. "As more information is learned, we will share it."

In addition to US navy aircraft, Singaporean ships, helicopters and tug boats were in the area to help conduct search and rescue efforts after the warship suffered damage to the port side aft, or left rear.

"The extent of damage and personnel injuries is being determined," it said, adding that the incident was being investigated.

Malaysia's navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin tweeted that two ships as well as aircraft from its navy and air force had also been deployed to help look for the missing US sailors.

The destroyer was sailing under its own power and heading to port.

Senator John McCain, a war hero who is now being treated for brain cancer, tweeted: "Cindy [his wife] & I are keeping America's sailors aboard the USS John S McCain in our prayers tonight - appreciate the work of search & rescue crews."

The vessel was named in honour of the senator's grandfather and father, who were US admirals.

Based at the fleet's home port of Yokosuka, Japan, the USS John S McCain has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according to the navy's website.

The ship it hit, the Liberian-flagged Alnic MC, is a 183-metre long oil tanker with a deadweight of more than 50,000 tonnes, according to the Marine Traffic website.

The vessel was carrying nearly 12,000 tonnes of fuel oil, but there was no oil spill, a crew member said. "We were carrying fuel oil from Taiwan to discharge to Singapore ," the crew member, who did not want to be identified, said.

"We are proceeding to Raffles Reserved Anchorage where the owners will investigate the matter.

"There was some damage to the valve."

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) lists the Raffles Reserved Anchorage, to the south of Bukom Island, to be reserved for "vessels requiring emergency repairs and damaged vessels or as directed by the Port Master".

The MPA said that no oil pollution had been reported and traffic in the busy Strait was not affected.

A family assistance centre has been established to help family members of sailors on board the USS McCain.

The waterways around Singapore are some of the busiest and most important in the world, carrying around a quarter of the world's trade in goods and oil.

The accident comes two months after seven US sailors died when a US destroyer collided with a merchant ship off the Japanese coast. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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