‘Flying Japanese’: US destroys tsunami ‘ghost ship’ with cannon fire (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

The US Coast Guard has opened fire to sink the Japanese “ghost ship” cast adrift by last year's massive tsunami, which was approaching the shores of Alaska.

The deserted ship, which was more than 60 meters long, posed a significant risk to marine traffic as it drifted through shipping lanes and at some point might have interfered with other ships.

The Coast Guard cutter, Anacapa, fired on the abandoned Ryou-Un Maru in the waters of the Gulf of Alaska more than 240 km from land, spokesman Paul Webb said.

An initial salvo of 25mm explosive rounds caused the ship to catch fire and begin to take on water, listing slightly, according to Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow.

A huge column of black smoke could be seen rising into the air.

A second salvo was fired later in the afternoon, he said.

In about four hours, the ship vanished into the water. A Coast Guard C-130 plane crew monitored the operation.

Earlier a Canadian fishing vessel claimed salvage rights to the “ghost ship” and said it would tow the vessel. However, a Canadian official later told Associated Press that the Bernice C was unable to tow the abandoned Japanese ship.

By Thursday morning, Ryou-Un Maru was about 170 miles (about 300 kilometers) south-west of Sitka, Alaska, and continued travelling at about one mile per hour.

The location of the stray ship was known as a Coast Guard aircraft dropped a self-locating data marker buoy on order to maintain a constant, real-time, position on the vessel.

There have been concerns that the sinking operation may cause serious environmental pollution as the Japanese ship has as much as 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel on board. However, both the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency guarantee that any oil that leaks out of the ship will be broken up and dispersed by the wind, waves and weather before it reaches the shore.

Ryou-Un Maru has been drifting from Hokkaido, Japan, since it was cast adrift by the tsunami caused by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit the country last year. About 5 million tons of debris was swept into the ocean by the natural disaster.

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The unmanned Japanese fishing vessel, Ryou-un Maru, drifts northwest approximately 164 miles southwest of Baranof Island (Reuters / Handout)
The unmanned Japanese fishing vessel, Ryou-un Maru, drifts northwest approximately 164 miles southwest of Baranof Island (Reuters / Handout)

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The Coast Guard cutter Anacapa (image from http://www.defense.gov)
The Coast Guard cutter Anacapa (image from http://www.defense.gov)

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Japanese fishing vessel "Ryou-Un Maru" burns after U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa crew fired explosive ammunition at the vessel, west of the Southeast Alaskan coast (Reuters / Handout)
Japanese fishing vessel "Ryou-Un Maru" burns after U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa crew fired explosive ammunition at the vessel, west of the Southeast Alaskan coast (Reuters / Handout)

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Japanese fishing vessel, "Ryou-Un Maru", shows significant signs of damage after U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Anancapa fired explosive ammunition into it, west of the Southeast Alaskan coast (Reuters / Handout)
Japanese fishing vessel, "Ryou-Un Maru", shows significant signs of damage after U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Anancapa fired explosive ammunition into it, west of the Southeast Alaskan coast (Reuters / Handout)

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U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa crew douses the adrift Japanese vessel with water after a gunnery exercise, west of the Southeast Alaskan coast (Reuters / Handout)
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa crew douses the adrift Japanese vessel with water after a gunnery exercise, west of the Southeast Alaskan coast (Reuters / Handout)