The navy said five others were hurt.
The USS John S McCain sustained damage on its port side aft, or left rear, from the collision with the Alnic MC that happened at 5.24am local time, the navy’s 7th Fleet said. It was not immediately clear if the oil and chemical tanker sustained damage or casualties in the collision.
The navy said Osprey aircraft and Seahawk helicopters from the USS America were assisting, and tugboats and Singaporean naval and coast guard vessels were in the area to help.
Malaysia’s navy chief Ahmad Kamarulzaman Ahmad Badaruddin tweeted that two ships as well as aircraft from its navy and air force have been deployed to help look for the missing US sailors.
The Strait of Malacca is a narrow body of water between Malaysia to the north-east and Indonesia to the southewest, with the city-state of Singapore at the tip of the Malay Peninsula.
The collision is the second involving a ship from the 7th Fleet in the Pacific in two months. Seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship hit each other in waters off Japan.
The Fitzgerald’s captain was relieved of command and other sailors were being punished after the navy found poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch contributed to the collision, the navy announced last week.
An investigation into how and why the Fitzgerald collided with the other ship was not finished, but enough details were known to take those actions, it said. The Japan-based 7th Fleet said the McCain had been heading to Singapore for a routine port visit when the collision occurred. The ship is based at the 7th Fleet’s homeport of Yokosuka, Japan. It was commissioned in 1994 and has a crew of 23 officers, 24 chief petty officers and 291 enlisted sailors, according the Navy’s website.
The senator is a navy veteran whose father and grandfather were decorated for their actions in the Pacific in the Second World War. Both elder McCains became admirals and the ship is named for them. Four of the injured sailors were evacuated by a Singaporean navy helicopter to a hospital in Singapore for treatment for non-life threatening injuries, and one did not require further medical attention.