US attack submarine sinks civilian vessel, reportedly killing 9 people

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Nine people are missing after a Japanese fisheries research ship sank off
Hawaii after being struck by a US nuclear submarine.

I felt two great shocks... I looked back and saw the submarine surface

Ehime Maru captain Hisao Oonishi

The accident happened 14km (nine miles) off
Honolulu harbour at 1345 (2345 GMT) as the USS Greeneville was surfacing.

Its stern hit the Ehime Maru, a training vessel from a Japanese fishery high
school with 35 people on board including 13 students.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said the US had apologised for the

Coastguards said they had picked up 26 people, some with minor injuries.

Those missing include four 17-year-old
students, two teachers and three crew.

The survivors were said to have been huddled in three life rafts and soaked
with diesel fuel.

A search plane, helicopters and patrol boats are searching the area for the

Chief Petty Officer Gary Openshaw of the US Coast Guard said: "We remain
hopeful, but as the hours pass any chance of finding survivors diminishes."

Prayers for rescue

Parents and fellow students gathered on Saturday at the Uwajima Marine and
Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture about 670km (420 miles) southwest of

Vice Principal Kazumitsu Jyoko told Reuters
news agency: "I am hoping and praying they will be found safe."

A spokesman for the US Navy Pacific Fleet, Commander Bruce Cole, said:
"It's important to say the Navy regrets this unfortunate incident."

Commander Cole said it was not known why the submarine surfaced below the
Ehime Maru. "It would not have surfaced if it had seen the boat," he

The Japanese Government said it would be seeking talks with the US Government
to determine the cause of the incident.

An investigation by the US Navy is already under way.

Study trip

US Navy spokeswoman Lieutenant Commander Jane Campbell said the USS
Greeneville, which has a crew of about 130, had been on routine operations when
it hit the Japanese boat.

No-one on board the American submarine was
hurt and the vessel was undamaged.

The Ehime Maru sailed from Honolulu harbour and is thought to have been
observing tuna stocks in the area.


The training ship had left Japan on 10 January and was scheduled to return on
23 March.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President George W Bush had been
told about the incident.

[html_font face="sans-serif" size="2"]The nuclear-powered USS Greeneville was
commissioned in February 1996 and its home port is Pearl Harbor.

A Los Angeles-class sub, she is 108 metres (360 feet) long, has a diameter of
9.9 metres (33 feet) and displaces 6,900 tons submerged.

The submarine is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.



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