U.S. Coast Guard Sinks Tsunami ‘Ghost Ship’

Officials shot down a Japanese shrimping boat that drifted into Alaskan waters after last year's tsunami swept the empty vessel out to sea.

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U.S. Coast Guard officials said they have sunk a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Alaska, set adrift by last year’s devastating tsunami in Japan, the Associated Press reports.

The 164-foot Ryou-Un Maru was believed to be carrying up to 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel, posing a threat to other vessels in the shipping lanes off the coastline. Cannon fire destroyed the ship after a Canadian fishing boat, which claimed salvage rights in the international waters, was unable to tow the vessel and deemed it unsafe.

(MORE: ‘Ghost Ship’ from Japan Tsunami Floating Off Canada’s Coast)

The blazing boat floated for several hours before more explosive ammunition sank it into the waters more than 6,000 feet deep about 180 miles west of southeast Alaska. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency determined sinking the ship and letting the unknown amounts of fuel disseminate into the water was safer than running it into the ground, according to the AP.

The shrimping boat was docked at Hokkaido, Japan during the 9.0-magnitutde earthquake that shook Japan and triggered a sweeping tsunami last March. Alaska Senator Mark Begich suggested returning the ship to its owner, but the Japanese owner declined, claiming it was destined for scrap, according to the BBC.

The Ryou-Un Maru is a part of an estimated 1.5 million tons of debris washed out to sea by the tsunami that flooded the Fukushima power station and caused the worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl accident.

Health experts are not concerned the drifting debris will be contaminated by radiation, while Alaskan state and federal officials are working to assess if seafood or wild game could be affected.

MORE: Up to 20 Million Tons of Japan’s Tsunami Debris Expected on U.S. Shores