TOKYO:The mayor of a town in northeastern Japan on Wednesday requested the US military to ground all flights of its F-16 fighter jets based at the Misawa Air Base after one of them dumped two fuel tanks in a nearby lake.
In a meeting with Col. R. Scott Jobe, commander of the US base, Tohoku town Mayor Koji Ebina requested that all flights by F-16 jets stationed at the base in Aomori Prefecture be suspended and local fisherman be compensated for loss of earnings.
"We have lots of fishermen. One wrong step could result in a catastrophe," Ebina was quoted as telling reporters on Wednesday.
A fire in the plane's engine broke out as soon as the F-16 jet took off from the Misawa Airbase in Aomori Prefecture early on Tuesday.
The plane was forced to dump its two external fuel tanks in a nearby lake, with the tanks splashing down between 200-400 meters from where fishing boats were operating, Japanese government and local officials said.
The F-16's fuel tanks were reportedly 4.5 meters in length and about 1 meter in diameter and weighed at least 200 kg when empty. In a statement, the US Air Force said that the fighter jet had confirmed that the area, Lake Ogawara, in which 10 clam boats were operating, was "unpopulated" before dumping both tanks.
"The aircraft was recovered safely on the installation airfield, and there were no injuries to the pilot or personnel on the ground. We will conduct a thorough investigation to determine the root cause of this incident," the statement said.
The lake is located to the north of the airbase and the fighter jet returned to the base shortly after jettisoning its external fuel tanks.
Local police closed a road to vehicles near the lake until it could be confirmed that the tanks weren't containing any toxic materials.
While the full details of fuel leakage in the lake are being confirmed, the Lake Ogawara fishery association decided to completely halt fishing in the lake until the fuel oil is retrieved.APP/AFP