Search and rescue mission: sailors rescued after snorkeling tour near Okinawa

US 7th Fleet personnel were in fresh water trunks near duty station when vessel capsized with dozens of passengers on board

A search and rescue mission by the Japanese Coast Guard has succeeded in rescuing a small group of US Marines who became trapped in a flooded inlet while on a snorkeling tour of a national park on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.

The US Navy said that the group was on board a dinghy, making its way down to fresh water trunks that protruded from the surface of a bay in Chatan-Daishiro, when their vessel capsized.

“The group had approximately 29 passengers and one crewmember in the water, some of whom were unconscious,” the Navy said.

The coast guard said its team helped the group to safety.

“Two lanes were closed as a result of the emergency response at Chatan-Daishiro in western Okinawa”, the coast guard told reporters.

The US is due to withdraw from the island by 30 September 2021, when the 42-year-old US military presence, which has long stoked local anger over land use and security, will be downsized to a footprint of a US Marine air station and associated facilities.

The unpopular military presence has weakened public support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to allow Tokyo to buy three disputed islands from Tokyo’s de facto Northern Territories ruler, Taiwan.

The land, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, is said to harbour natural gas reserves. China has claimed them since 1895, when Tokyo colonised what was then called Manchuria.

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