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World War 2 Australian Ship Sunk By Japs Found After 67 Years

PTI 13 Jan 2010, 10:23:17 AM IST

Shipwreck hunters have captured the first underwater footage of an Australian World War Two hospital ship that sank in 1943 and left 268 people dead, reports The Mail, London.

A search team led by US marine scientist David Mearns sent a submarine robot more than 6,500 feet below the surface to snap the images of the Centaur on Sunday.

The footage showed the ship's bright red cross and a corroded number 47, its identification number.

The Centaur sank off the Queensland state coast during World War II in 1943, with just 64 of the 332 people on board surviving.

Australia said the ship sank after being torpedoed by the Japanese, but Japan says the circumstances surrounding the sinking are unclear.

Mearns found sonar footage of the Centaur on December 20, 30 miles east of the southern tip of Moreton Island at a depth of 6,755 feet. Sunday's images helped confirm the wreck was that of the Centaur, he said.

On Monday, Mearns and his crew sent the submarine robot into the depths again to take a second round of pictures, which included an image of the ship's bell and an escape hatch that one survivor climbed through just before the Centaur sank.

'We found the bell with the name on it. You can't get any better than that,' Mearns said.

On Sunday, Queensland Acting Premier Paul Lucas called on Japan to apologise for the sinking.

'Whilst the Japanese have certainly apologized for their actions during the Second World War, it would be appropriate for those involved to express an apology,' Mr Lucas said. 'In this barbaric act, people lost their lives. Sailors, soldiers, nurses, doctors, orderlies. It was totally senseless and a wanton act.'

Monday was a national holiday in Japan and phone calls to the foreign ministry in Tokyo went unanswered, as did calls to Japan's embassy in Canberra.

Queensland Premier Anna Blight said the Centaur will be marked as a military gravesite and protected by an exclusion zone.

The Centaur was sunk off the Queensland coast by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine. At the time of the attack, the ship was displaying Red Cross symbols, and was carrying 332 medical personnel and civilian crew

The Centaur was built in Scotland and registered to Liverpool before becoming an Australian hospital ship