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Search for Missing Crewmen of Naval Ship Halted

Posted April. 05, 2010 03:03,   


The Navy decided yesterday to stop searching for the missing crewmen of the patrol ship Cheonan and to raise the sunken vessel. The missing seamen will be identified after the sunken part of the ship is recovered.

Rear Admiral Lee Ki-sik, head of the intelligence and operations department at the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said thanks to the decisions by the families of the missing, the Navy terminated search and rescue operations at midnight Sunday.

It then began work to raise the sunken bow and stern of the Cheonan. The pulling operation has five stages, including the installation of a crane, linking the crane to the ship, drainage of the sunken sections, and search for the missing.

The Navy had private divers explore the underwater topography near the sunken parts of the vessel and installed a maritime crane near the stern. A 2,000-ton crane, a 300-ton barge and a 150-ton crane will be used in the area where the stern sank. A 3,600-ton maritime crane, 120-ton crane, and a 300-ton barge will be used in the area where the bow submerged.

The families of the missing crewmen agree on a stop to the search after hearing that divers could go further inside the ship in the process of the recovery of the one of the crew members’ bodies.

Lee Jeong-guk, who represents the families of the missing crew, said Friday night that they agreed that the inside of the ship is in a dangerous situation due to the impact of the explosion and the flooding of seawater. He said the decision was made for the sake of the safety of other military divers.

The body of Senior Chief Petty Officer Nam Ki-hoon was recovered around 6:10 p.m. Friday near the area, the first of the missing crewmen to be recovered. He was identified by his nametag on the top of his uniform.

Rear Admiral Lee said Nam’s body was found by naval divers while they tried to secure entry into the inside of the stern. His corpse was moved to the 2nd Naval Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, at the request of his bereaved family. The Navy is discussing Nam’s funeral with his relatives.

The Defense Ministry also denied a media report on an alleged naval log pertaining to the incident.

mhpark@donga.com jmpark@donga.com