Crew leaves U.S. warship aground in Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — All 79 officers and crew of a U.S. Navy minesweeper stuck on a coral reef in the central Philippines have left the ship two days after efforts to free the vessel failed, the Navy said Saturday.

The ship ran aground Thursday while in transit through the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a coral sanctuary in the Sulu Sea, 400 miles southwest of Manila. There were no injuries or oil leaks, and Philippine authorities were trying to evaluate damage to the protected coral reef, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet earlier on Friday said 72 of the crew of the USS Guardian were transferred for safety reasons to a military support vessel and a naval survey ship. The Navy said in a statement hours later that all 79 crew members, including the commanding and the executive officers, had left the stricken ship.

The statement quoted 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Scott Swift as saying other ships “remain on scene and essential Guardian sailors will continue conducting survey operations onboard the ship as needed until she is recovered.”

He said several support vessels have arrived at the area and “all steps are being taken to minimize environmental effects while ensuring the crew’s continued safety.”

The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines said that according to an initial visual inspection, the 74-yard-long, 1,300-ton Guardian damaged at least 10 yards of the reef. Aerial photographs provided by the Philippine military showed the ship’s bow sitting atop corals in shallow turquoise waters. The stern was floating in the deep blue waters. The Navy said the cause of the grounding, which took place about 2 a.m. Thursday, was under investigation.

Angelique Songco, head of the government’s Protected Area Management Board, said it was unclear how much of the reef was damaged. She said the government imposes a fine of about $300 per square yard of damaged coral.

In 2005, the environmental group Greenpeace was fined almost $7,000 after its flagship struck a reef in the same area.

Songco said that park rangers were not allowed to board the ship for inspection and were told to contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

Philippine military spokesman Maj. Oliver Banaria said the U.S. Navy did not request assistance from the Philippines.

U.S. Navy ships have stepped up visits to Philippine ports for refueling, rest and recreation, plus joint military exercises as a result of a redeployment of U.S. forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Philippines, a U.S. defense treaty ally, has been entangled in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.

More in Local News

At long last, a church of his own

After years of filling in elsewhere, Hallack Greider is the new pastor at Maplewood Presbyterian.

Judge: Lawmakers’ emails, texts subject to public disclosure

News organizations had sued to challenge the Legislature’s claim that members were exempt.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

Outgoing councilwoman honored by Marysville Fire District

The Marysville Fire District in December honored outgoing City Councilwoman Donna Wright… Continue reading

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Their grown children died, but state law won’t let them sue

Families are seeking a change in the state’s limiting wrongful-death law.

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Number of flu-related deaths in county continues to grow

Statewide, 86 people have died from the flu, most of whom were 65 or older.

Ex-Monroe cop re-arrested after losing sex crime case appeal

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison but was free while trying to get his conviction overturned.

Most Read