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7 reported missing after US Navy ship collision off Japan

TOKYO (AP) — Seven crew members are missing and one injured after a U.S. Navy destroyer collided early Saturday morning with a merchant ship off the coast of Japan, the country’s coast guard reported.

Footage from the Japanese TV network NHK showed heavy damage to the mid-right side of the Navy ship and a person in a stretcher being lifted to a helicopter.

The U.S. 7th Fleet said on its Facebook page that the number of injuries is still being determined.

The Japan Coast Guard said it received an emergency call from a Philippine-registered container ship ACX Crystal around 2:20 a.m. (1720 GMT Friday) that it had collided with the USS Fitzgerald southwest of Yokusuka, Japan.

Coast guard official Takeshi Aikawa said seven crew members are unaccounted for, and one had a head injury. Further details of his or her condition were not known.

Relatives of crew members were awaiting news of their loved ones.

“Of course we’re nervous and scared and just praying,” Rita Schrimsher said by telephone from Athens, Alabama.

Her grandson Jackson Schrimsher is a 23-year-old sailor aboard the USS Fitzgerald. She said she last communicated with him via Facebook messenger on Wednesday.

The Navy’s 7th Fleet said the ship experienced flooding in some areas and is heading back to Yokosuka. The fleet said the Fitzgerald has limited propulsion, and the ship suffered damage on the starboard side below the water line.

Aikawa said the US ship is partially flooded because of damage. So far no damage or injuries have been reported on the container ship, he said. NHK reported that the merchant ship had scratches on the left side of its bow.

The Philippine ship is 29,060 tons and is 222.6 meters (730 feet) long, the coast guard said.

The Navy said that the collision occurred 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, a city south of Tokyo that is home to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet. A U.S. defense official said there is flooding in three compartments of the Fitzgerald.

The fleet said the USS Dewey, medical assistance and two Navy tugs were being dispatched as quickly as possible and that Naval aircraft were being readied to help. The Japan Coast Guard dispatched five patrol ships and an aircraft carrying medics to the site for search and rescue operations.

The Navy’s Pacific Fleet said the extent of injuries and damage to the Fitzgerald are being determined, and the incident is under investigation.

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Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Cathy Bussewitz and Jennifer Kelleher in Honolulu contributed to this story.

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