Stern of sunken SKorean warship located: military | world | Hindustan Times
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Stern of sunken SKorean warship located: military

world Updated: Mar 29, 2010 16:24 IST

AFP
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Searchers have found the stern section of a South Korean warship that was torn apart by a mystery blast near the North Korean border and divers will try to reach it later on Monday, the military said.

A successful dive would provide clues about the fate of 46 missing crewmen and about the cause of the blast which sent the 1,200-tonne corvette to the bottom of the Yellow Sea Friday night.

Military divers will try at 2:00 pm (1030 IST) to reach the stern portion of the 88-metre Cheonan, where most of the missing are believed located following one of the country's worst maritime disasters.

The ship sank near the tense disputed border with the North, scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 and of a firefight last November.

Seoul officials say there is no evidence so far that Pyongyang was involved in Friday's blast.

The front portion was located over the weekend. But divers had to postpone attempts to reach it due to strong currents, poor visibility and high waves, stirring anger among families of the missing who demanded swifter salvage efforts.

The stern section was located by sonar late yesterday, the military said. The two sections are some 230 metres apart and divers will try on Monday to reach both.

"The rapid currents and poor visibility under the sea are the biggest stumbling block," Lee Ki-Shik, spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a briefing.

"We plan to do the rescue work in the belief that there could be still survivors both in the stern and the bow," Lee said, adding underwater cameras would soon be lowered.

A second attempt to dive on the wreck would be made at 8:00 pm on Monday, with dive times determined by tides and currents. The stern is 40 metres underwater.

President Lee Myung-Bak has called four emergency security meetings since the sinking but cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the cause.

"Do not give up hope that there could be survivors," he told searchers on Monday in a statement.

"Look into the causes of the incident thoroughly and leave no single piece of doubt behind."

A total of 58 crewmen were saved soon after the Cheonan went down south of Baengnyeong island, but no one has been rescued since then despite a major air and sea search.