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7 missing as US Navy ship collides with container ship off Japan

Three of the destroyer's crew members, including Commander Bryce Benson, were medically evacuated to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka.

The Fitzgerald, which is part of the US 7th Fleet, returned to the Yokosuka Naval Base in Kanagawa Prefecture, while the container vessel docked at a Tokyo port.

The US warship - part of its right side caved in as crew members pumped water from flooded areas - was pulled by a tugboat as it limped back to base in Yokosuka, where the navy said divers were trying to reach parts of the vessel smashed in the accident. The ship has returned to port in Yokosuka, Japan, as of 7 p.m. local time, substantially damaged after crashing into a container ship four times its size.

Nippon Yusen K.K., the Japanese shipping company that operates the container ship that collided with a U.S. Navy destroyer, said its crew was accounted for.

USA and Japanese ships continued searching well after dark for the missing sailors.

The Navy said that the USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

The vessel was taking on water after the incident, but the crew was working to stabilise the ship by pumping water out of the hold.

The Japan Coast Guard said it had sent patrol vessels and an airplane to the site of the collision and Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force has dispatched a helicopter to search for the seven missing crew members.

The U.S. 7th Fleet said on its Facebook page that the collision was with Philippine-flagged merchant vessel ACX Crystal.

Seven sailors are unaccounted for and three more have been evacuated for their injuries after the collision, which occurred around 2:30 a.m. local time off the coast of Japan.

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Civilian and military investigators, meanwhile, began trying to piece together the cause of the nighttime collision.

Nippon Yusen said in a statement, "We are collaborating with the ship owner and fully cooperating with the investigation by the coast guard".

The US Navy's 7th Fleet twitter account says the Navy is working with the Japanese Coast Guard to conduct a medical evacuation of the injured. Seven Navy sailors are missing an.

The waterways approaching Tokyo Bay are busy with commercial vessels sailing to and from Japan's two biggest container ports in Tokyo and Yokohama.

"We're going all out in the search to find these missing people... but we still haven't found any clues as to where they might be", a coastguard spokesman said.

The US Navy ship had more than 200 sailors aboard, who would have been asleep in their berths at the time of the accident. Two others also suffered lacerations and bruises and were flown by helicopter to the naval hospital, officials added.

Benson took command of the Fitzgerald on 13 May.

Neither of the vessels involved in the collision were in danger of sinking, the Japan Coast Guard said earlier.

The destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side, while the container ship sustained light damage. US Naval aircraft are also being readied to help, said the statement. The extent of the injuries remains unclear. Now working with the Japanese Coast Guard to conduct a medevac via helicopter for one Sailor.

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