All but seven members of a U.S. Navy minesweeper's crew were taken off the ship Friday after it was trapped in a coral reef in the Philippines and could not be freed. The ship ran aground Thursday while in transit through the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a coral sanctuary in the Sulu Sea, 640 kilometers (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.
Trapped: The USS Guardian ran aground in the western Philippines on its way to a port call in Puerto Princesa City. The U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet said 72 of the 79 crew of the USS Guardian were transferred to a military support vessel by small boat. A small team of personnel will remain aboard and attempt to free the ship with minimal environmental impact, the statement said. The remaining seven sailors, including the commanding and the executive officer, will also be transferred if conditions become unsafe. Philippine officials said the weather was choppy Friday with strong winds and rough seas. The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines said that according to an initial visual inspection, the 68-meter- (74-yard-) long, 1,300-ton Guardian damaged at least 10 meters (yards) of the reef.
Ghost ship: 72 of the ship's 79 crew members were removed after the Navy was unable to free it from a coral 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 around 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 meter (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.
Searching for answers: Naval officials are still investigating how the USS Guardian became trapped. 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. Their radio calls to the ship were ignored, she said. The U.S. Navy statement said that 'the government of the Philippines was promptly informed of the incident and is being updated regularly.' 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.
She is one of the most finely-tuned and sophisticated pieces of technology in the US Navy, designed to hunt down and destroy even the best-hidden of enemy sea mines. But apparently the USS Guardian isn't quite so efficient at spotting coral reefs, as it proved while minesweeping in the Sulu Sea, 400 miles southwest of Manila, in the Philippines. The state-of-the-art minesweeper crashed onto the Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site, during a training run on Thursday where it has become stubbornly wedged. Navy chiefs have blamed an inaccurate map as a possible cause for the calamity, which conservationists say has severely damaged one of the world's most treasured ocean beauty spots.
Run aground: Apparently, the USS Guardian isn't very good at spotting coral reefs, as it proved yesterday when it ran aground in the Sulu Sea, 400 miles southwest of Manila, in the Philippines. All 79 officers and crew of the USS Guardian were forced to abandon ship as several support vessels continued to conduct salvage operations that minimize environmental effects to the reef today. The Navy said in a statement that a review of Digital Nautical Charts, which are used for safe navigation by all U.S. Navy ships, found they contained inaccurate data and may have been a factor in the Guardian's grounding. As a result, Navigator of the Navy Rear Adm. Jonathan White released precautionary guidance to all Pacific Fleet ships, saying that 'initial review of navigation data indicates an error in the location of Tubbataha Reef' in the Philippines.
Stuck: Navy chiefs have blamed an inaccurate map as a possible cause after the minesweeper hit the Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site, during a training run on Thursday
Trouble ahead: Navy chiefs have blamed an inaccurate map as a possible cause for the calamity, which conservationists say has severely damaged one of the world's most treasured ocean beauty spots. 'While the erroneous navigation chart data is important information, no one should jump to conclusions,' said Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Darryn James. 'It is critical that the US Navy conduct a comprehensive investigation that assesses all the facts surrounding the Guardian grounding.' The Avenger-class ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, a former American naval base west of the capital, Manila, and was en route to Indonesia and then on to East Timor to participate in a training exercise when it hit the reef, about 80 miles southeast of Palawan Island.
When training runs go bad: The Avenger-class ship (marked '5') had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, a former American naval base west of the capital, Manila, and was en route to Indonesia and then on to East Timor
Location: The US Navy ship was minesweeping in the Sulu Sea, 400 miles southwest of Manila, in the Philippines. The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines said that according to an initial visual inspection, the 68-meter-long, 1,300-ton Guardian damaged at least 10 metres of the reef, which UNESCO designated as a World Heritage Site. It is part of Southeast Asia's Coral Triangle, a huge stretch of ocean that contains most of the world's coral species, reefs, and more than 3,000 species of fish. Angelique Songco, head of the government's Protected Area Management Board, said the government imposes a fine of about $300 per square metre of damaged coral, plus other fees. In 2005, the environmental group Greenpeace was fined almost $7,000 after its flagship struck a reef in the same area. Songco blamed the Guardian for turning away park rangers who wanted to board the minesweeper, but the Navy said it was cooperating with the Philippine government, a key US defence ally.Presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the government will observe the law governing the Tubbataha Reef, but right now 'the primary concern is extricating the ship out of the reef with minimal damage.'
On the night of the 27th of February, the 10,192-ton ferry sailed out of Manila for Cagayan de Oro Cityvia Bacolod City and Iloilo City with 899 recorded passengers and crew aboard. Atelevision set containing an 8-pound (3.6 kilograms) TNT bomb had been placed on board in the lower, more crowded decks.
An hour after its 11 p.m. sailing, just off either El Fraile or Corregidor Island an explosion tore through the vessel, starting a fire that engulfed the ship and caused the confirmed deaths of 63 people while another 53 were recorded as missing and presumed dead. As the fire spread across the vessel most of the survivors jumped into the sea or boarded rescue boats and, by the 29th of February, officials had accounted for 565 of the 744 recorded passengers and all but two of the 155 crew members.
In the days following the blast, the recovery of the dead and missing, calculated at around 180 on February 29, would be slow. Officials stated the missing may have been trapped inside the blazing ferry, have drowned in Manila Bay and that others may had been picked up by fishing boats. The recovery of bodies would take several months, with only four bodies recovered by Coast Guard divers from the half-submerged ferry in the first week alone, despite it having been towed to shallower waters near Mariveles town, west of Manila. At least another 12 bodies, some displaying blast injuries, were recovered by divers in the days up until the 7th. Eventually, 63 bodies would be recovered while another 53 would remain missing, presumed dead. Despite claims from various terrorist groups, the blast was initially thought to have been an accident, caused by a gas explosion, and sabotage was ruled out initially.
However, stated Philippine media reports, at the marine board of inquiry hearing in late March, 2004, a safety supervisor with the ship’s owner,WG&A, testified that about 150 survivors told him an explosion took place in the tourist section around the general area of bunk 51. The Captain of the ferry, Ceferino Manzo, testified in the same hearing that the entire tourist section was engulfed in “thick black smoke [that] smelled like gunpowder.”After divers righted the ferry, five months after it sank, they found evidence of a bomb blast. A man named Redondo Cain Dellosa, aRajah Sulaiman Movement member, confessed to planting a bomb, triggered by a timing device, on board for the Abu Sayyaf guerrillagroup. He held a ticket on the ferry for bunk 51B, where the bomb was placed, and disembarked before the ship’s departure.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced on October 11, 2004, that investigators had concluded that the explosion had been caused by a bomb. She said six suspects had been arrested in connection with the bombing and that the masterminds,Khadaffy Janjalani andAbu Sulaiman, were still at large. It was believed that Abu Sayyaf bombed Superferry 14 because the company that owned it,WG&A, did not comply with a letter demanding USD 1 million in protection money
THE 2004 SUPERFERRY BOMBING IN THE PHILIPPINES: The Philippine Coast Guard and other vessels fight a fire aboard "Superferry 14" Friday, Feb. 27, 2004, 70 kilometers (45 miles) southwest of Manila. Coast guard Rear Adm. Danilo Abinoja said at least 665 people had been rescued and one body recovered. Another eight people were injured. (AP Photo) #
THE 2004 SUPERFERRY BOMBING IN THE PHILIPPINES: A silhouette of the rescue boat and the Superferry as Philippines Coast Guard search operation continues, 01 March 2004, for more than 140 passenger still missing. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo 01 March rejected Muslim guerrilla group's claim that it bombed the passenger ferry which caught fire last week. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images) #
THE 2004 SUPERFERRY BOMBING IN THE PHILIPPINES: A ferry survivor carries her two children on their arrival at the Manila port, 27 February 2004 after they were rescued from the burning Superferry 14. One person died while 200 people are unaccounted for when fire broke out after an explosion in the engine room around 1:00 am. (JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)#
THE 2004 SUPERFERRY BOMBING IN THE PHILIPPINES: The half-submerged Superferry 14 is shown March 4, 2004 in Mariveles, Philippines. Divers recovered 6 bodies in the afternoon from the ferry that caught fire in a possible terrorist attack. (Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images) #
Most Tragic Acts of Terrorism in History – 2004 Super Ferry 14 Bombing: Philippines
The Philippines had also suffered numerous terrorist attacks one of the most notable and most tragic attacks occurred on February 27, 2004 and was known as the SuperFerry 14 bombings.
THE 2004 SUPERFERRY BOMBING IN THE PHILIPPINES: Philippines Coast Guard members prepare to search the half-submerged Superferry 14 for missing persons March 4, 2004 in Mariveles, Philippines. Divers recovered 6 bodies in the afternoon from the ferry that caught fire in a possible terrorist attack. (Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images) #
Lavilla is one of the top ideologues in the Rajah Solaiman Movement, a group of former Christians who converted to Islam and claim affiliation with the al Qaeda-linked regional terrorist groups Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf, Blancaflor said.
Blancaflor said authorities suspect Lavilla helped plot the bombing of a superferry near Manila on February 27, 2004, in which at least 116 people died. They believe Lavilla also helped plan the bombing of a bus behind the Intercontinental Hotel in Manila on February 14, 2005, an attack that killed at least four people and came to be known as the Valentine's Day Bombing.
The bus bombing was part of a trio of attacks that happened that day. The two other blasts, both fatal, happened in the southern cities of General Santos and Davao.
Blancaflor said he suspects Lavilla was also involved in the planning of several bomb attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Manila, all of which were thwarted by Philippine police.
In describing Lavilla's arrest in Bahrain, Blancaflor said only that police there arrested him as they were enforcing U.N. Security Council resolution 1276, which imposed air travel and financial sanctions on the Taliban.
Jemaah Islamiyah aims to create a Muslim "superstate" across much of Southeast Asia. Authorities blame the group for the Bali, Indonesia nightclub bombings of 2002, which killed more than 200 mostly Western tourists.
The group is also suspected of subsequent attacks on the Australian Embassy and J.W. Marriott hotel, both in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.
The Abu Sayyaf group is one of several Islamic militant groups fighting the government in and around the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
Fireworks explode over Victoria Harbour to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, in Hong Kong on October 1, 2012. The anniversary is also known as National Day. This is the event passengers aboard the Lamma IV had sailed to view. (Antony Dickson/AFP/Getty Images) #
Rescue crews search for passengers in waters near Yung Shue Wan on Lamma Island, on October 1, 2012 in Hong Kong. (Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images) #
Rescuers check on the half submerged Lamma IV, after it collided Monday night near Lamma Island, on October 2, 2012. Authorities rescued 101 people after the collision. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) #
Rescue crews search for passengers in waters near Yung Shue Wan on Lamma Island, on October 1, 2012. (Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images) #
A young survivor of the ferry collision is carried by a rescuer in Hong Kong, on October 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) #
A survivor, supported by rescuers, is taken ashore after a collision involving two vessels in Hong Kong, on October 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) #
A survivor of the ferry collision is carried by rescuers in Hong Kong, on October 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) #
Search and rescue teams search the waters around the partially submerged Lamma IV (center) off Hong Kong's Lamma island, on October 2, 2012, the morning after it collided with a Hong Kong ferry killing 37 people. (Antony Dickson/AFP/Getty Images) #
Divers from a firefighting team retrieve a body near the Lamma IV, unseen, after it collided and sank Monday night, on October 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) #
Police and rescue officers carry the body of a deceased passenger at the Marine Police Base in Aberdeen, on October 2, 2012 in Hong Kong. (Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images) #
The bow of the Lamma IV, partially submerged during rescue operations on October 2, 2012, the morning after it collided with a Hong Kong ferry killing 37 people. (Antony Dickson/AFP/Getty Images) #
A relative cries as she leaves a public mortuary holding the bodies of those who died in a boat accident near Yung Shue Wan on Lamma Island, on October 2, 2012 in Hong Kong. (Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images) #
The Sea Smooth ferry with its bow badly damaged sits docked at the Lamma Island pier on October 2, 1012 following a collision with the Lamma IV in Hong Kong waters late on October 1. (Antony Dickson/AFP/Getty Images) #
Workers check on the re-floated Lamma IV, which sank the previous night after colliding with a ferry near Lamma Island, on October 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) #
A worker examines the salvaged Lamma IV, on October 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) #
A man takes a photo from the beach as a boat which sank earlier after a collision is kept stable by tugboats off Hong Kong's Lamma Island, on October 2, 2012. (Reuters/Bobby Yip) #
Relatives of the victims of the ferry collision burn incense as they pay their respects in Hong Kong, on October 2, 2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu) #
Relatives of the victims throw paper money Tuesday, October 2, 2012 as they pay tribute to the ill-fated people aboard the Lamma IV that sank Monday night near Lamma Island. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) #
Relatives of victims in a fatal ferry collision pay their respects by throwing paper money into the waters off Hong Kong, on October 2, 2012. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu) #
Relatives of the victims pay tribute to loved ones lost aboard a boat that sank Monday night near Lamma Island, on October 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) #
Two men watch from a peak as the Lamma IV is kept stable by tugboats off Hong Kong's Lamma Island, on October 2, 2012. (Reuters/Bobby Yip)
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