Hopes dim of finding more survivors of sunken Korean ship

March 28th, 2010 - 11:59 am ICT by IANS  

Seoul, March 28 (DPA) Hopes of finding more survivors waned Sunday as South Korean military officials prepared to salvage the wreckage of a warship that exploded and sank Friday night, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The process of salvaging the 1,200-tonne Navy corvette is expected to take at least 20 days, officials said. Examining the wreckage would help determine the cause of the explosion.

Of the 104 crew, 46 were still missing and believed to have gone down with the ship, named the Cheonan.

An 86-member naval ship salvage unit continued its search for survivors Sunday, despite murky, choppy water and punishing winds. Strong waves had pushed the ship four miles from the site where it began sinking, about 1.8 km off the coast of Baengnyeong island, officials said.

President Lee Myung Bak reconvened national security officials Sunday for a fourth meeting on the naval catastrophe, Yonhap said.

Prime Minister Chung Un Chan also pledged full government support to military rescue efforts.

“The military will take the lead in handling the incident. Each ministry must provide all necessary cooperation and support,” Chung said.

Considering the distance of the accident site from the sea border with North Korea, Seoul was reluctant to connect the Communist regime to the event.

The North’s state mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency, reported Saturday only that the regime’s leader, Kim Jong Il, had attended an orchestral performance, with no mention of the sunken warship.

As the cause of the ship’s explosion remains unclear, survivors speculated during a briefing organised by the navy, the local Korea Herald newspaper reported.

The ship’s commander, Choi Won Il, suspected “internal or external shocks”, while another crewman doubted an internal explosion, reports said.

The session for some 300 distraught relatives of the 46 missing crew was organised by the navy’s Second Fleet Command in the ship’s home port of Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

The Second Fleet Command said it would escort some family members of the missing to the scene of the disaster Sunday.

The Northern Limit Line, the western maritime border that North Korea refuses to recognize, was the site of bloody naval skirmishes in 1999, 2002 and 2009.

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