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

Load up: Cheesecake Factory plans Lynnwood location

The chain restaurant is listed as a tenant in new development at Alderwood mall.

Sound Transit funding splits lawmakers trying to cut car tab fees

With the legislative session set to end March 8, pressure is building for action.

What to do when you get pulled over

Don’t forget to be considerate so officers will know you are not a threat to their safety.

Suspected drunk driver crash in Bothell sends two to hospital

The man suspected of causing the Saturday afternoon collision was not injured.

Man seriously injured after confrontation in Marysville

Witnesses told police that they heard a gunshot and saw two men pile into a white suv.

2 hospitalized after head-on crash in Marysville

Anyone who witnessed the collision or the vehicles shortly before the crash is asked to contact police.

Front Porch

EVENTS Snow goose festival coming up The Port Susan Snow Goose and… Continue reading

Water to be shut down for up to 2 days for about 100 homes

The city of Everett plans to disable one of four pipelines next week while crews work on the system.

Finalists for EdCC presidency holding campus meetings

A search committee reviewed 19 applicants and recommended three finalists to the Board of Trustees.

Most Read