The wreck of the doomed Japanese trawler Ehime Maru is seen deep in the sea. The mourners want the US government to recover the fishing boat, and the bodies of their relatives. PHOTO – REUTERS
off Hawaii also expressed outrage at reports of what went wrong.
In Honolulu, a crew member on the submarine USS Greeneville told the National Transportation Safety Board that civilians were „distracting“ as the vessel prepared to surface on February 9.
The sunken ship, the Ehime Maru, was carrying students from a Japanese high school on a fisheries training project. Twenty-six people were rescued. Transportation Safety Board official John Hammerschmidt told a news conference in Honolulu that the solar plotter — a crew member who notes contacts with other possible ships — told the board he was unable to finish plotting sonar blips because civilians were in the way. Hammerschmidt said the submarine made sonar contact with a surface vessel shortly before the accident, and that Navy analysis showed the vessel was the Ehime Maru. Two of the 16 civilians on board the submarine were at the controls when it conducted an emergency surfacing drill that caused it to crash.
Strains and anger
Ties between the two allies, Japan and US, have been strained by Japanese anger at the U.S. handling of the sinking and by a series of incidents involving U.S. military personnel stationed on Japan‘s southern island of Okinawa. U.S. officials including President George W. Bush have apologised for the accident, and ambassador Thomas Foley will delay his planned March 1 departure from Tokyo to deal with the issue. Mori himself has come under heavy criticism for carrying on with a golf game after learning of the disaster, a decision that sparked a crescendo of calls for him to resign soon.
Relatives of the missing Japanese met Mori to demand that the trawler be raised from the seabed, a depth of 600 metres in hopes of recovering the bodies of their loved ones. They also urged Japan to do so on its own if Washington decides against the technically difficult and costly step.