Damage is seen on the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald off the Shimoda coast, after it collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship. Pics/AFP
Damage is seen on the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald off the Shimoda coast, after it collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship. Pics/AFP

The bodies of missing sailors were found in flooded compartments of the USS Fitzgerald, which came close to sinking after a collision with a container ship off Japan tore a gash under the warship's waterline, the US Navy's Seventh Fleet commander said on Sunday.

Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin declined to say how many of the seven missing sailors had been recovered, but Japanese media said all had died. Out of concern for the families and the notification process, I will decline to state how many we have found at this time," said Aucoin. The search at sea had ended, Aucoin said. The USS Fitzgerald could have foundered, or even sunk, but for the crew's desperate efforts to save the ship, he said. "The damage was significant. There was a big gash under the water," Aucoin said at Yokosuka naval base, home of the US Seventh Fleet. The flooding was in two berthing compartments, the radio room and auxiliary machine room, a US Navy spokesman said.

"A significant portion of the crew was sleeping" when the destroyer collided with the Philippine-flagged container ship, destroying the commander's cabin, he said. Multiple US and Japanese investigations are underway on how a ship as large as the container could ram into the warship in clear weather.