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Japanese ghost ship sinks 1 year after quake

April 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The U.S. Coast Guard finally succeeded in sinking a Japanese ghost ship off the coast of Alaska from last year's tsunami.

The ghost ship was destined for scrapping when that magnitude-9 earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan.

The powerful waves dislodged the vessel and set it adrift, without any crew or cargo, 3,200 miles across the Pacific Ocean into the busy shipping lanes off Alaska.

U.S. Coast Guard officials determined the ship was a safety hazard, at risk of running aground or endangering other vessels between north America and Asia, so they decided to sink it.

The crew pummeled the ship with high explosive ammunition, causing it to burst into flames and take on water. A huge column of smoke could be seen for miles. They fired a canon into its hull and sank the ship into waters more than 1,000 feet deep more than 150 miles from land.

It's not known who owned the ship, which had been traveling about 1 mile per hour in recent days. Earlier Thursday, a Canadian fishing vessel claimed salvage rights over the abandoned ship, but was unable to tow it. About four hours later, the ghost ship vanished into the sea.

The ship was able to carry more than 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel. It's not known how much fuel was on board, but officials from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency both agreed it was safer to sink the ship and let the fuel evaporate in the water. Meanwhile, government officials continue to gauge the danger of the debris that has washed up on the shores across the pacific.

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