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Navy, Coast Guard rescue 24 Filipinos from disabled ship

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard rescued 24 Filipino sailors from life rafts in the Persian Gulf on Thursday after an explosion disabled a tanker and killed one crewmember.

The Navy destroyer USS John Paul Jones responded to an early morning distress call Thursday from the Liberian-flagged vessel Stolt Valor, in international waters 48 nautical miles southeast of Farsi Island, Iran, according to a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command news release.

The crew spotted a life raft signaling and launched an inflatable boat to investigate, according to the release. It found one life raft loaded with 16 Filipino sailors, and another with eight sailors. The sailors were escorted aboard the John Paul Jones and did not need medical help.

Firefighting tugboats were sent to aid the Stolt Valor, according to the news release.

The Stolt Valor is a chemical tanker that was carrying about 13,000 metric tons of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, also known as MTBE.

At about 7:30 a.m., the sailors were transferred to the Coast Guard cutter Baranof, where they were taken to Manama, Bahrain.

The operation was the first high-profile rescue in the Persian Gulf since Navy vessels rescued groups of Iranian sailors in successive weeks in January.

The John Paul Jones is currently conducting security operations in the Persian Gulf, according to the U.S. Fifth Fleet website. Baranof is assigned to Task Force 55 and U.S. Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

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