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US fights fire aboard oil-loaded warship

Published : Wednesday, 15 July, 2020 at 5:32 PM  Count : 180

SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, provides aerial firefighting support alongside Sailors and civilian fire crews on the ground to fight the fire aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo

SAN DIEGO (July 13, 2020) An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from the “Merlins” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 3, provides aerial firefighting support alongside Sailors and civilian fire crews on the ground to fight the fire aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). U.S. Navy Photo

The battle to save the Bonhomme Richard from a ravaging fire entered a third day in San Diego Bay on Tuesday with indications that the situation aboard the amphibious assault ship was improving.

At least 59 people, including 36 sailors and 23 civilians, have been treated for heat exhaustion, smoke inhalation and minor injuries. Five people who had been in a hospital under observation were released.

The US Navy said in a statement late Monday that firefighters were making significant progress with the assistance of water drops by helicopters.

The ship was emitting much less smoke than the previous two days, when acrid billows poured out and blanketed parts of the region.

The Navy, meanwhile, has taken precautions in case the warship sinks and potentially releases 1 million gallons of oil on board into the harbor.

The U.S. Coast Guard has hired an oil clean-up crew to put a containment boom in place that could be ready if any oil is spilled. It also halted boat and air traffic within a nautical mile of the vessel, AP reports.

On Monday, health officials warned people to stay indoors as acrid smoke wafted across San Diego from one of the Navy’s worst shipyard fires in recent years. 

Some 400 sailors along with Navy helicopters and local and federal firefighters poured water on the carrier-like ship, which erupted in flames Sunday morning.

Retired Navy Capt. Lawrence B. Brennan, a professor of international maritime law at Fordham University in New York, said there was a risk of the hull rupturing, which could cause the ship to spill its oil.





“If this is a million gallons of oil that ends up settling on the bottom of the San Diego Harbor and can’t be removed safely, we’re talking about billions of dollars of environmental damage,” said Brennan, who has investigated and litigated hundreds of maritime cases.

The ship can be used to deploy thousands of Marines to shore and has the capacity to accommodate helicopters, certain types of short-takeoff airplanes, small boats and amphibious vehicles.

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