Ehime chief apologizes to next of kin

Governor admits powerlessness in obtaining U.S. promise to raise ship


Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato apologized Tuesday to the relatives of victims of the sunken Ehime Maru over Japan’s failure to get assurances from U.S. officials that the ship will be raised.

Ehime Gov. Moriyuki Kato talks at a Honolulu hotel with relatives of the nine Japanese missing from the sunken Ehime Maru.

The relatives of the nine feared dead called for a meeting with Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to express their feelings in person and to ask for U.S. assurances that the ship will be raised. Their plea came during a meeting with the governor.

Kato said he would try to arrange the meeting.

The relatives also asked the prefectural government to aid the formation of a support network among the relatives of the nine people.

Kato arrived here earlier in the day together with Ehime Prefectural Assembly President Nagatoshi Tanimoto with the intention of asking U.S. officials directly to raise the ship.

“The prime minister and the foreign minister have taken every possible route in negotiating with the U.S. side, but I must apologize for our powerlessness in bringing about results in line with your expectations,” Kato said.

Kato told reporters here that he was aiming to convey the feelings of his prefecture to those in charge of the U.S. military.

Ehime officials said Kato has told the Japanese Consulate General in Honolulu that he wants to meet with Adm. Dennis Blair, head of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Navy continued to use two unmanned deep-sea submersibles to survey the Ehime Maru, which lies 600 meters down on the seabed.

“For the sake of the victims, I will strongly request (that the U.S. raise the ship),” Kato told reporters before leaving Japan.

The 499-ton training ship Ehime Maru, from Uwajima Fisheries High School in Ehime Prefecture, went down after being struck by by the surfacing 6,080-ton USS Greeneville 18 km off Oahu Island.

Twenty-six of those on board were rescued, but the nine, including four high school students, are missing and presumed dead.

A group of Japanese experts left for Honolulu on Wednesday Japan time to assist U.S. efforts to recover the fishery training ship.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said in Tokyo that the group consists of government officials as well as experts from private shipbuilding and salvaging companies.

The expert team will assist the United States in analyzing data on the sunken trawler, government officials said.