MIAMI (AP) _ A 575-foot Kuwaiti cargo ship damaged in a high-seas collision sank to the floor of the Atlantic on Thursday as its crew watched from the deck of a Navy tug, the Coast Guard reported.

The grain freighter Qarouh had been taking on water through a gash in its bow since it rammed a Panamanian cargo ship Tuesday night about 700 miles off the Florida coast.

''It had been sinking deeper and deeper head first all day long. Then it just went,'' Coast Guard Lt. Brad Lee said. ''Once it started going under, it didn't take long for it to disappear under the water.'' The sinking happened about 4:10 p.m. EST.

The 28-member Kuwaiti crew, rescued early Wednesday when the ship began to list, could only sit and watch from the deck of the tug Mohawk as their ship filled with water, Lee said.

Rough weather aggravated the situation but couldn't have caused it, officials said. Weather reports showed seas as high as 6 feet with 26 mph winds.

''It would have gone down if it was perfectly still out there,'' Lee said. ''It was meant to happen.''

The Mohawk left the scene Thursday night with the Qarouh crew bound for Miami.

Meanwhile, the listing Panamanian ship Explorer was about 70 miles east of the crash site, limping toward port at 3 knots with an escort from the Coast Guard cutter Alert, Lee said.

The 600-foot Explorer, slowly leaking its cargo of powdered aluminum, was expected to reach Jacksonville next week with its crew of 20. It will be accompanied by the Alert until seagoing tugs come to the freighter's aid, Petty Officer Luis Diaz said.

The Qarouh was en route from Pascagoula, Miss., to Port Said, Egypt and the Explorer from Venezuela to Norfolk, Va., when they collided, officials said.