United States Navy minesweeper runs aground in Philippines on UNESCO-listed reef

Crew members from the Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior display a banner saying 'Save our reefs!' at the world famous Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the southern Philippines, 30 October 2005.

A United States Navy minesweeper has run aground on a World Heritage-listed Philippines coral reef, with crew evacuated after attempts to free the ship failed.   

According to Stars and Stripes, the "224-foot Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship" USS Guardian ran aground around 2:25 a.m. Thursday on Tubbataha Reef.

Philippine authorities were trying to evaluate damage to the coral reef in a marine park designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, according to the Associated Press.

The reef is in the Sulu Sea, 400 miles southwest of Manila, and the official website Tubbataha Reefs National Park claims that the CNN travel website, cnngo.com, ranks it among the top eight dive sites in the world.

The US Navy said the ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, Olongapo City, and was en route to her next port of call.

Meanwhile, 72 of the Guardian's 79 crew were transferred to a military support vessel with a small team of personnel remaining aboard to try and free it from the reef with minimal environmental impact, the AP cited a statement from the US Navy's 7th Fleet as saying.

The Philippine Coast Guard was sending a team to the Tubbataha reef to check the extent of any damage, PhilStar.com reported.

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