Oct 27, 2009 11:26 AM by Associated Press
A Japanese navy destroyer has collided with a commercial vessel off southern Japan, starting fires on both ships and injuring three crew members, defense officials said Tuesday.
The destroyer JS Kurama collided with the South Korean container ship Carina Star on Tuesday night in the Kanmon Strait near the southern main island of Kyushu, a defense ministry spokesman said on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
One Kurama crew member was slightly injured - with scratches and bruises - while two other sailors were sickened by inhaling smoke, the official said.
The fire on the 7,400-ton container ship was extinguished shortly after the collision. The navy destroyer was still on fire late Tuesday, though it was largely under control, he said.
Public broadcaster NHK said none of the South Korean ship's crew members were injured. The defense official said the Japanese ship's bow was badly damaged but was still capable of traveling on its own.
TV footage showed orange flames rising up from the vessels in the dark. The collision site is about 530 miles southwest of Tokyo, between Kyusu and the western end of the Honshu main island.
The Kurama, carrying 360 sailors, was on its way to its home port of Sasebo on Kyushu after serving as the flagship for the country's triennial fleet review Sunday at the port of Yokosuka.
Last year, a collision between a destroyer and a tuna trawler off the coast of Chiba, near Tokyo, left two fishermen dead. That accident triggered an uproar in Japan, where many people harbor pacifist sentiments and remain sensitive to anything related to the military.
Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa quickly held a news conference and apologized for the accident.
"We deeply apologize to the people for causing concerns," he said. "We will quickly find out what caused the accident."
Kitazawa said the government has set up a task force to investigate the collision.