‘Needle in a haystack search’ for missing US sailors
JOHOR, Aug 24 — Off the coast of southern Malaysia, rescuers peered through binoculars at vast expanses of ocean today as they zipped along in a speedboat, in a desperate search for US sailors missing after a warship accident.
The coastguard vessel Petir 12, part of a multinational search effort scouring hundreds of square miles, crashed through large waves in the South China Sea, as planes and helicopters buzzed overhead.
Four days after the USS John S. McCain collided into a tanker off Singapore — tearing a huge hole in the destroyer’s side in the latest accident involving a US warship — hopes are fading that any of the 10 sailors who went missing will be found alive.
The US Navy has already confirmed that remains of some of the sailors have been discovered in flooded compartments on the guided-missile destroyer, but have not said how many were found or remain unaccounted for.
The Malaysian coastguard — which along with the Malaysian navy is involved in the search — have basic equipment, relying only on binoculars and keen eyesight.
“We don’t have any special sensors to detect bodies in the sea, we have to do everything by sight,” Captain Amran Daud, a Malaysian coastguard official, told AFP.
The Malaysian navy did discover a body Tuesday a considerable distance from the accident site but the US Navy has concluded that it was not one of the missing sailors.
Before setting out from a jetty in Tanjung Pengelih, Johor state, coastguard officials huddled together by a map showing the sea around the accident site, with the search area measuring some 900 square nautical miles.
As well as Malaysia, ships, aircraft and divers from the US, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia have joined the hunt.
But Amran did not sound upbeat about the prospects of finding any of the sailors: “All ships in the area have been notified (to look out for the sailors). So far, no positive sign.”
Monday’s collision — which also injured five sailors — was the second such accident in two months after an American warship collided with a cargo vessel off Japan, leaving seven sailors dead. — AFP