More than 100 sailors stranded in Hong Kong as storm warning ends carrier group’s port call
Stars and Stripes June 26, 2007
There are certainly worse places to be marooned than Hong Kong.
That’s what happened to more than 100 USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group sailors Sunday when the ships had to cut short a port visit by about 24 hours because of an approaching typhoon that pounded the Philippines and caused a storm warning to be issued in Hong Kong.
The six ships and more than 7,000 sailors of Carrier Strike Group 7 departed Hong Kong after a four-day call.
"We had hundreds of sailors ashore when the determination to get under way was made," Lt. Ron Flanders, a command spokesman, said Tuesday. "We contacted as many as we could, and got them to the ships before pulling out. A little over 100 were not contacted in time."
The strike group includes the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, USS Chancellorsville, USS Decatur, USS Howard, USS Gridley and USS Thach.
The first ships began heading for sea around 2:30 p.m. Sunday, he added. A few officers stayed ashore to coordinate the return of the sailors left behind, who were quickly accounted for.
Flanders said most were expected to be flown to U.S. Naval Base Guam on Tuesday and Wednesday and would rejoin the strike group at a later date.
"The sailors were in a liberty status when the emergency came," he added, "[so] they are not in any trouble at all. They have been issued TAD (Temporary Additional Duty) orders and are flying to Guam."
It’s common practice for the Navy to move ships out to sea in advance of tropical storms to avoid damage. When done under urgent conditions, officials say it’s normal that some people get stranded on shore.
"It’s unfortunate, but the Reagan leadership is dealing with it and working to get their sailors back," said Cmdr. Jensin Sommer, a Commander Task Force 70 spokeswoman. "When things like this happen, it’s to be expected you’re not going to catch everybody."
Sommer also said contacting stranded sailors can be difficult, especially in Hong Kong, a favorite stop that’s spread out and features no shortage of leisure-related activities.
"Hong Kong is a fantastic city to be stuck in," said one who was stranded in a Wan Chai district bar Sunday evening as his colleagues headed out to sea, according to a story published Tuesday in the South China Morning Post newspaper.
Meanwhile, President Bush has ordered the carrier group to the Philippines to help those harmed by Typhoon Fengshen.
Bush said that the aircraft carrier and other Navy assets will move into place immediately. The powerful storm hit over the weekend, leaving dozens dead in flooded communities in the central Philippines
The Associated Press contributed to this report.