Fear taking physical toll on Cheonan crew families

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Fear taking physical toll on Cheonan crew families

PYEONGTAEK - The emotional agony of the family members of the missing sailors on the Korean Navy corvette Cheonan has begun to turn into physical pain. Some have fainted while others were treated for abdominal pains and severe headaches.

At 1 a.m. yesterday, an ambulance drove out of the Second Naval Fleet base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, where around 300 relatives of the missing crew are waiting for news of their loved ones. The mother of Petty Officer Suh Seung-won was taken to a nearby hospital when she fainted after showing signs of dehydration. She was treated at the hospital and was back at the fleet base by yesterday afternoon.

After seeing a report Wednesday on OBS TV, a local broadcaster, which incorrectly stated that four dead bodies had been found inside the Cheonan’s stern, the mother of Petty Officer Jung Beom-gu fainted and had to be transferred immediately to a nearby hospital.

Other family members vomited and complained of abdominal pain after seeing the report, Lee Jung-guk, head of the missing Cheonan sailors’ family committee, said on a local radio show yesterday morning.

OBS later deleted the report and apologized to the family members of the missing sailors.

The Gyeonggi provincial government sent a medical van and eight medical experts, including doctors and nurses, to the waiting families at the fleet base. The Navy had already stationed six medical experts at the base.

“As of 2:30 p.m. [yesterday], 23 family members of the missing sailors had been diagnosed and treated,” said Yu Yeong-chul, a health policy official with the Gyeonggi provincial government.

“Many showed signs of internal illnesses, heartburn and shoulder pains.”

The medical van operates every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the site. “Most of the family members are in a state of shock and haven’t eaten properly, which is weakening their health,” said a fleet official.

The missing Cheonan sailors’ family committee held an unofficial press conference yesterday asking the government to reveal any updated information on the rescue operation.

Also yesterday, 12 relatives of the Cheonan’s missing crew were scheduled to be flown by helicopter to Baengnyeong Island, near which the ship sank, to help with the military’s rescue operations there. The trip was canceled due to poor weather.

By Cho Jae-eun, Jeong Seon-eon [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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