<font color="maroon" size=2><b>Breaking News</b></font><br>Fate of missing sailors still unclear

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Fate of missing sailors still unclear


지난 26일 밤 서해 백령도 서남방 해역에서 침몰된 해군 초계함 천안함이 뒤집힌 채 선수 부분이 수면위로 모습을 드러내고 있는 가운데 27일 오전 구조작업이 진행되고 있다.[옹진군청] (연합뉴스)

Eighteen South Korean Navy's special rescue squad members arrived at the scene of a sunken navy ship that sank near the western sea border with North Korea to search for missing sailors.

But South Korea could not confirm this afternoon the fate of 46 sailors who have been missing since a Navy patrol ship sank.

Fifty-eight sailors have been rescued.

The South’s Navy stepped up efforts to find the missing sailors but no results were immediately available, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The 1,200-ton patrol combat corvette Cheonan sank last night at 9:45 p.m. in the waters near the Baeknyeong Island apparently after an
explosion blew a hole in its stern while the vessel was on a patrol mission.

The cause of the explosion is as yet unknown. A total of 104 crew members were on board at the time of the incident.

“Among rescued sailors, 13 have been hospitalized for injuries, with two of them suffering cerebral hemorrhages,” Col. Park Sung-woo, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a press briefing. “But their conditions are not life-threatening. Our military will keep searching for missing sailors and we will determine the exact reason for the sinking after the ship is brought to the surface and examined.”


지난 26일 밤 서해 백령도 서남방 해역에서 침몰된 해군 초계함 천안함이 뒤집힌 채 선수 부분이 수면위로 모습을 드러내고 있는 가운데 27일 오전 구조작업이 진행되고 있다.[옹진군청] (연합뉴스)

It is feared that unpredictable currents in the Yellow Sea could hamper rescue operations, he said.

A South Korean Navy officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said that it is not likely that the vessel sank after an internal explosion.

The officer did not rule out the possibility of an attack by the North.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak ordered a “quick and thorough” investigation today into what caused the warship to sink, keeping in mind “all possibilities.” He made his comments during an emergency meeting with security-related Cabinet ministers, the Blue House said.

The presidential office also said that there has been no “special move” by North Korea so far despite initial media reports that the communist neighbor might be responsible for the incident near the disputed western sea border between the two Koreas.

“Lee ordered the military to find the truth behind the sinking quickly and thoroughly and said the government should leave open all
possibilities,” presidential spokeswoman Kim Eun-hye quoted Lee as saying.


26일 백령도 서남방 해상에서 침몰한 천안함. 1995년 6·27 지방선거 투표일을 앞두고 장병들이 천안함 함상에서 부재자투표를 하고 있는 모습. [연합뉴스]

The Cheonan, commissioned in 1989, is a Pohang class corvette, a small, maneuverable, lightly armed warship used by South Korean Navy for coastal defense.

The corvette, with a miximun speed of 32 knots (35.7 miles per hour), is 88 meters (288 feet) long and 10 meters wide. It is capable of carrying around 100 crew members.

The vessel is armed with anti-submarine missiles, depth charges and torpedoes as well as 76, 40 and 30 millimeter cannons.

The Navy operates 30 ships of the same class.

By Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

해군 SSU 요원 18명 탐색작업 돌입

해군 초계함 침몰사건의 부상자 중 국군수도병원으로 이송된 신은총 하사의 가족이 27일 신 하사를 면회한 뒤 "뒤에서 큰 폭발음이 나더니 잘 보이지 않았지만 배가 동강이 난 것 같았다"는 신 하사의 진술을 전했다.

현재 26일 발생한 해군 초계함 침몰사건으로 탑승했던 승조원 104명 중 58명은 구조됐고 나머지 46명은 실종 상태다. 구조된 58명 중 13명이 부상을 입었으나 군 당국은 이들 모두 생명에는 지장이 없다고 밝혔다. 이 중 신은총 하사와 정종욱 상사는 뇌출혈 증세를 보여 국군수도병원으로 이송됐다.

신 하사를 면회한 한 가족은 연합뉴스와의 인터뷰에서 "말하는 데 지장이 없을 정도로 생각보다 심하지 않았다"며 "수술할 정도는 아니라고 한다. 목이 뻐근하고 허리와 무릎을 다쳐 치료가 필요한 것 같다"고 말했다.

특히 침몰 당시 상황에 대해 "신 하사는 당직이라 갑판에 서 있었는데 뒤에서 큰 폭발음이 나더니, 사고 당시 어둡고 안경이 떨어져서 잘 보이지 않았지만 배가 동강이 난 것 같았다고 전해들었다"고 말했다.

그는 "배가 기울면서 물건들이 쏟아져 허리를 다쳤다고 했다"면서 "물건과 함께 사람들이 한쪽으로 쏠리면서 바다로 떨어지고 혼란스러웠다고 하더라"고 연합뉴스에 전했다. 군 당국은 부상자 및 구조자와 언론과의 접촉을 일체 금지하고 있다.

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