• Kyodo

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Four crew members were killed and five others are missing after a collision early Friday between two freighters off the coast of Chiba Prefecture in the Pacific Ocean sank one of the vessels, the Japan Coast Guard said.

The accident took place around 5:10 a.m., some 18 km south of Cape Inubosaki, where visibility was low due to dense fog, the coast guard said. The accident caused an oil spill.

Sunk in the accident was the Wei Hang 9, a 3,947-ton freighter registered in Malta with 21 crew members, the coast guard said.

One of the dead crewmen was identified as Zhao Wei, 28; the others have yet to be identified. According to the crew manifest, the dead and the missing are all Chinese nationals. Another crew member sustained minor arm injuries.

The other ship involved was the Kaishin Maru, a Japanese-registered 499-ton freighter owned by Osaka-based shipping firm Kayama Kaiun K.K. and operated by Kotobuki Kisen K.K., a shipping firm based in Imabari, Ehime Prefecture.

The Japanese ship sustained cracks in the collision, though its four crew members were unhurt, according to a report given by the ship to the shipping companies.

The port bow of the Kaishin Maru and the starboard bridge of the We Hang collided, according to the report. Part of the Wei Hang was seen around 9 meters underwater, the coast guard said. The depth in the area was around 50 meters.

On July 15, two Japanese tankers collided off Mie Prefecture, leaving six people dead.

The Meteorological Agency said the sea was relatively calm with waves of 1 to 2 meters, but a dense fog warning was in effect for northeastern Chiba Prefecture at that time.

The Japan Coast Guard has dispatched eight patrol boats and four aircraft to conduct rescue operations.

The Kaishin Maru, carrying steel pipes, was sailing to Kushiro port in Hokkaido from the port of Chiba. The ship had collided with a freighter off Shizuoka Prefecture in September 2003, causing the other vessel to sink.

The Wei Hang 9 had loaded scrap iron at Shiogama port in Miyagi Prefecture and was bound for Dalian port in China, the coast guard said.

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