SKorea resumes hunt for 46 missing in warship sinking


The 1,200-tonne navy corvette with 104 crew on board went down in the Yellow Sea late Friday after being ripped into two by the blast in one of South Korea's worst ever naval disasters.

Only 58 sailors have so far been rescued after the sinking of the Cheonan near Baengnyeong island, and hopes for the remaining crew were fading fast, with water temperatures only a few degrees above freezing.

The incident happened near the disputed sea border between North and South Korea, scene of bloody naval clashes in 1999 and 2002, but officials in Seoul have not said there was any evidence Pyongyang was involved.

South Korean defence ministry spokesman Won Tae-Jae told a briefing today that it would take "a significant time to reach a reliable conclusion" about the cause of the blast on the Cheonan.

Navy frogmen, who had earlier failed to reach the sunken ship because of strong winds and rough waves, resumed work today along with a 3,000-ton salvage ship and two 730-ton mine-detecting boats.

"We plan to mobilise all possible means to search for and rescue possible survivors given the sea currents in waters there," Won said.

The weather office said water temperatures in the Yellow Sea were 3.7 degrees Celsius and the Yonhap news agency quoted coastguard officials as saying humans could not survive for more than three hours in waters between eight and 10 degrees Celsius.
President Lee Myung-Bak, who held a fourth round of emergency security meetings today, has ordered a swift and thorough probe into the sinking as well as a search for survivors.

"The ship was torn apart and the stern sank immediately," Choi Won-Il, captain of the Cheonan, told relatives of the missing on Saturday.
Kim Jin-Ho, a seaman on a local passenger ship that was bound for Baengnyeong, described Friday evening's horrific scene to YTN television.
"Survivors were screaming for help," Kim said. "As the ship was sinking, they were hanging onto the front part of the deck, shouting: 'Save me!'"
The Joint Chiefs of Staff office spokesman Lee Ki-Sik told parliament Saturday that he believed many of the missing sailors might be trapped inside the sunken ship.

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