Navy divers found a number of sailors' bodies today, aboard the stricken USS Fitzgerald that collided with a container ship in the busy sea off Japan, but a spokeswoman said not all seven missing had been accounted for.
Searchers gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision and brought the remains to Naval Hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified, the Navy said in a statement.
Seven sailors had been missing, but Yoko Kato, a spokeswoman for the US Navy in Yokosuka, said not all were recovered. She didn't say how many were found.
Japan's coast guard officials said the sea and air search was still continuing at the site of the collision, 103 kilometres southwest of Yokosuka, home to the 7th Fleet.
The Navy said the families were being notified and provided the support they need during "this difficult time." The names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made.
Sixteen hours following the predawn collision yesterday, the damaged destroyer was pumping out water as it limped back to its home port in Yokosuka Naval Base south of Tokyo, its crew lined up on deck.
The Philippine-flagged container ship was berthed at Tokyo's Oi wharf, where officials began questioning crew members about the cause of the crash.
At least three other crew members, including the captain, were injured in the crash, which damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the radio room and exposed a mangled mid-right side of the ship.
It wasn't clear how extensive the damage is below the water line.
"This has been a difficult day," said Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet.
"I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates," he said before the announcement that the bodies were found.
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