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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Marine Corps announced Wednesday that the unit whose amphibious assault vehicle sank off the coast of Camp Schwab on June 9 has ceased operations with its AAVs until further notice.

The vehicle sank in about 10 feet of water after experiencing mechanical problems during “routine training,” Marine officials stated in a release. The four Marines in the vehicle escaped, with one suffering minor cuts.

Officials have declined to identify the unit.

The Marines announced June 10 that recovery efforts were being made, but the vehicle still was underwater on Wednesday.

An official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office on Okinawa said the delay is due to environmental concerns.

“Because the spot where the vehicle sank is shallow water near the coral reef, recovery work requires careful planning,” he said. “We understand that no specific method or date of recovery has been set yet.”

Meanwhile, the Okinawa Fishermen’s Federation expressed concerns Wednesday about the effect the sunken vehicle might have on the environment. They filed a request with the foreign ministry and the Defense Facilities Administration Naha Bureau.

“After the vehicle sank on June 9, oil started to leak the next day,” said a senior official with federation.

“Depending on wind directions, we fear that the leaked oil would damage a nearby seaweed cultivation area,” said Osamu Maeshiro, chief of the federation’s administration office. “The waters where the vehicle sank are near rich fishing grounds for gillnet and skin-diving fishing. Nearby are Ginoza waters where sea urchins are abundant.”

The Marine Corps stated Wednesday that it “takes safety and environmental impact seriously” and regrets any anxiety the incident might have caused Okinawa residents. The release confirmed there was a small fuel leak from the vehicle June 10, but said Marine divers were able to cap the leak. Also, a dispersant is being used in the immediate area to regularly dissipate any fuel on the water’s surface.

The release stated the Marines are “working closely with local authorities to examine any environmental impact this incident causes” and will move quickly to remove the vehicle and stop potential environmental damage.

The incident still is under investigation, the release said.


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