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2 BLASTS, FIRE ROCK U.S. SHIP

Two explosions rocked the aircraft carrier Midway Wednesday during flight operations at sea, injuring 16 crew members and leaving one missing, the Navy said. At least seven were seriously hurt.

A fire that broke out at the time of the first explosion continued to burn more than eight hours later, but the 980-foot-long ship was steaming under its own power about 125 miles northeast of Tokyo, the Navy said.The Navy's Public Affairs Office said the ship would not return to its homeport at Yokosuka, and a decision would be made Thursday on whether it needs to come in.

The damage to the 45-year-old Midway, which lost the use of one of two aircraft-launching catapults in the explosion, may force the cancellation of U.S.-Japan exercises, officials said.

Yokosuka City demanded that the Midway be barred from port until its safety had been confirmed and the cause of the fire clarified, city spokesman Ryutaro Koizumi said.

The fire broke out in a storeroom four decks below the carrier's flight deck, and was confined to the storeroom for firefighting and emergency repair equipment, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Frank Mowry of the Public Affairs Office.

There was no explosive material near the area, Lt. Jeff Gradeck said. The explosions were unrelated to flight operations under way at the time, Gradeck said. The cause was being investigated.

Among the injured, Mowry said, five were flown to Yokosuka. One was in critical condition, two in serious condition, one in guarded condition and one in stable condition.

Four others, who were seriously burned, were taken by helicopter to the U.S. air base at Yokota, west of Japan, and then to two separate Japanese hospitals, Mowry said.