Damage to the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald is seen as the vessel is berthed at its mother port in Yokosuka, southwest of Tokyo, on June 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The collision between a US Navy destroyer and a merchant ship, which has reportedly left seven Americans dead off the coast of Japan, “could have been much worse," says the Navy's 7th Fleet commander.
"The crew's response was swift and effective, and I want to point out — as we stand by the ship — how proud I am of them," Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin said during a news conference Sunday.
"Heroic efforts prevented the flooding from catastrophically spreading, which could have caused the ship to founder or sink," Aucoin added. "It could have been much worse."
The seven missing sailors from the USS Fitzgerald were found dead in flooded compartments later, according to a US Navy official.
Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin (R), the commander of the US 7th Fleet, delivers a speech during a press conference in front of the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald at US Navy Yokosuka Base, southwest of Tokyo on June 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Aucoin, however, declined to say how many of the crew members were found.
"Out of concern for the families and the notification process, I will decline to state how many we have found at this time," he said. "We owe that to the families and friends of these shipmates and hope you can respect this process."
The guided-missile destroyer collided with a Philippine-flagged 730-foot container ship some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan around 2:30 am local time on Saturday.
The 10,000-ton guided-missile destroyer and the ACX Crystal, a 29,000-ton container ship collided off Japan's Izu Peninsula.
While the container ship sustained little damage, the destroyer suffered severe damage to its starboard side.

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