Expanded search yields nothing

Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel on board a C-130 flying over the search area yesterday, scanning the sea for survivors or bodies of the missing sailors. For better visibility, the aircraft flew just 150m above the sea. In total, more than 3
Republic of Singapore Air Force personnel on board a C-130 flying over the search area yesterday, scanning the sea for survivors or bodies of the missing sailors. For better visibility, the aircraft flew just 150m above the sea. In total, more than 300 personnel from Singapore have been deployed in the search-and-rescue effort so far.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Peering at the open sea for hours at a stretch may be monotonous, but it remains crucial to finding the missing sailors from the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain on Day Three of the multinational search- and-rescue effort yesterday.

But efforts by Singapore's search- and-rescue personnel yielded nothing yesterday, as hopes for finding survivors fade.

Singapore's search area was further expanded to 5,524 sq km yesterday, from 2,620 sq km on Tuesday, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) said in a statement yesterday.

No survivors have been found as of yesterday. The US Navy said on Tuesday that bodies of several sailors had been discovered.

The US warship had collided with tanker Alnic MC in Singapore waters on Monday, leaving 10 sailors missing and five injured.

Two Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) aircraft, a C-130 and a Fokker 50, were among those involved yesterday, with a Super Puma helicopter on standby.

In the expanded area, the United States and Singapore are covering the central sector. Malaysia, Australia and Indonesia are covering the north-west, north-east and southern sectors, respectively.

 

In the C-130 mission accompanied by media representatives, the search spanned 1,269 sq km over the eastern and northern parts of the Singapore search area.

Twenty RSAF personnel were involved in the mission - one of the 10 that have taken place since Monday. In the seven-hour operation, the team was deployed to look for survivors or bodies of the sailors.

Among them, 12 were designated as "scanners", some of whom wore sunglasses to shield their eyes from the glare. Fatigue was a concern in the six hours of searching, so the servicemen did 30-minute shifts with 10- to 15-minute breaks.

Two loadmasters, who are air crew specialists of 122 Squadron trained to do such operations, did the same job.

For better visibility, the aircraft conducted low-level flights - 150m above the sea.

MPA said two Republic of Singapore Navy patrol vessels, RSS Freedom and RSS Fearless, were deployed yesterday. The Singapore Police Coast Guard also deployed two vessels.

Australia joined yesterday's operation with a P3 aircraft, while MPA, as the coordinating agency, also had a craft present.

In total, more than 300 personnel from Singapore have been deployed.

The Singapore Armed Forces has deployed four patrol vessels, three fast craft, a frigate, three Super Pumas, two Chinooks, two C-130s and three Fokker 50s, while the coast guard has deployed four patrol craft. The MPA has deployed two craft, three tugboats and a team of divers. It has also been issuing hourly navigational broadcasts to inform passing vessels of the incident, and to ask them to look out for anyone in the water.

Operations by US Navy and Marine Corps divers, who found the remains of several missing sailors when they accessed sealed compartments in the damaged parts of the ship, were ongoing yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2017, with the headline 'Expanded search yields nothing'. Print Edition | Subscribe