An explosion and blaze on board a navy ship in San Diego has injured twenty-one people, say US Navy officials.
That includes seventeen sailors and four civilians who were hospitalised with “non-life threatening injuries” on Sunday night, said the US Navy in a statement.
Almost 160 sailors and crew were on board the USS Bonhomme Richard when an explosion occurred around 9am on Sunday, The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department said.
The blaze, which continued to burn overnight, was believed to have started in the ship’s lower cargo hold where high pressure caused the blast, said Admiral Philip Sobeck.
He added that the blaze spread upwards whilst consuming materials on board the ship, but that fuel oil, hazardous materials or electrics were not the source.
At least three San Diego fire department units were working to control the blaze on Sunday night, said Amiral Sobek.
“Sailors across this waterfront are absolutely doing a magnificent job. They are saving their ship. We’re seeing just incredible results,” he said.
All ammunition on board the USS Bonhomme Richard had been unloaded as a standard safety precaution before the vessel was placed into maintenance at the dock in San Diego, Navy officials said.
Meanwhile around one million gallons of fuel remained isolated “well below where any heat source is,” and fire crews worked all day to “make sure that’s not affected,” said the admiral.
Navy spokesman Mike Raney told Reuters that there was no immediate evidence of foul play in the explosion, which sent thick clouds of smoke into the air above San Diego on Sunday morning.
Two guided-missile destroyers docked nearby, the USS Fitzgerald and USS Russell, were moved to piers at distance from the burning vessel, the Navy said.