A US Navy minesweeper struck a protected coral reef near the Phillipines on Thursday while in transit through the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a coral sanctuary in the Sulu Sea, 400 miles southwest of Manila.
According to a CBS News report , 73 of the 79 sailors have been evacuated and efforts to free the vessel have failed. Although Philippine officials said the weather was choppy Friday with strong winds and rough seas, it is not known what actually caused the ship to run aground. The US Navy were not allowing any Tubbataha National Marine Park rangers on board to inspect the vessel, however, the damage to the vessel is minimal and there are no oil leaks.
According to the World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines an initial visual inspection of the 74-yard-long, 1,300-ton Guardian damaged at least 10 yards of the 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 still under investigation.
Tubbataha Reef is an atoll coral reef located in the Sulu Sea of the Philippines. It is a marine sanctuary protected as Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park. It is nominated at the New 7 Wonders of Nature.