U.S. blocks vessels from area near balloon shoot down

A jet flies by a suspected Chinese spy balloon as it floats off the coast in Surfside Beach

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Coast Guard said Monday it is imposing a temporary security zone in the waters off Surfside Beach, South Carolina in the area where the U.S. military on Saturday shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon.

The 10 nautical mile area security zone blocks vessels from entering without permission of the Coast Guard and is intended to protect the public “from potential hazards associated with physical objects.”

The zone is to be enforced through Feb. 18.

The Pentagon told reporters Saturday the U.S. Navy was leading a recovery mission but said the duration of the operation was unknown. The Navy has divers and unmanned vessels to retrieve the remnants of the balloon.

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“Recovery options will seek to recover all debris and any material of intelligence value,” a senior defense official told reporters. A U.S. military official said there were multiple U.S. Navy vessels and Coast Guard vessels in the region on Saturday “establishing a security perimeter, conducting search for any debris that may be on the water to ensure the safety of U.S. civilians.”

The debris is mostly in 47 feet (14.3 meters) of water, the Pentagon said. “The recovery that will make it fairly easy, actually. We planned for much deeper water,” the military official said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)