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 Saturday, 4 January, 2003, 12:20 GMT
One dead in naval collision
Damaged RSS Courageous
The rear of the ship sheared off in the collision
Singapore has said that one of its sailors died and three others are still missing after their anti-submarine vessel was hit by a merchant ship.

The divers found one body lodged between the bunks

Tony Tan
Defence Minister

The RSS Courageous, a 500-ton patrol boat, was badly damaged in the incident involving a Dutch-owned cargo ship off Malaysia's southern coast late on Friday.

Minister of Defence Tony Tan confirmed the death of the sailor, a woman, and said there was little hope of finding the other three missing crew members, also women, alive.

"Singaporeans must prepare for the worst," he said in a statement.

The ANL Indonesia
The 52,000-ton cargo ship showed little sign of damage

Eight of the warship's 44 crew members suffered minor injuries and three were taken to a hospital for observation, the defence ministry said.

Part of the vessel's rear section sheared off in the collision with the ANL Indonesia, a 52,000-ton cargo ship owned by P&O Nedlloyd.

Port authorities towed the Courageous to Singapore's Changi Naval Base in order to drain its flooded compartments and search for the missing women in the wreckage.

Divers searched the flooded compartments during the journey.

"The rescue team gained access to the compartment where the servicewomen were sleeping. The divers found one body lodged between the bunks," Mr Tan said in the statement.

The island state's navy chief, Lui Tuck Yew, said the accident was the worst in Singapore's naval history.

No injuries were reported aboard the South Korea-bound ANL Indonesia, which was towed to a Singapore's Eastern Anchorage.

The accident occurred minutes before midnight about one nautical mile (1.8 kilometres) north of Pedra Branca, an islet claimed by both Singapore and Malaysia.

Pedra Branca lies off peninsular Malaysia's southern coast, strategically situated at the eastern entrance of the Singapore Strait.

Singapore says the incident took place in Singaporean waters and should not have any effect on relations with Malaysia.

The RSS Courageous, commissioned in 1996, is one of six submarine hunters in Singapore's navy fleet.

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  The BBC's Tim Awford
"The accident is being described as the worst in Singapore's naval history"
See also:

21 Dec 02 | Country profiles
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