S Korean Navy begins preparations for salvaging sunken warship

11:35, April 05, 2010      

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South Korean Navy on Sunday began preparations for hoisting a warship that sank late last month in the Yellow Sea, after halting underwater rescue operations for the vessel's missing crew members at the request of their families, local media reported.

The 1,200-ton Navy vessel "Cheonan," with 104 crew members onboard, went down on March 26 off the South Korean island of Baekryeongdo off the west coast due to an unexplained explosion that split it into two. Only 58 sailors were rescued after it sank.

On Saturday, the body of Senior Chief Petty Officer Nam Ki-hoon was found inside the mess hall in the stern of the sunken vessel, and 45 others still remain missing.

After hearing the confirmation of Nam's death, family members of the other missing sailors asked the Navy to halt all search and rescue operations and begin work to salvage the wreckage, as there are dim chances that their loved ones can survive.

The search mission was suspended at around 11 p.m. Saturday at the request of missing sailors' family members, a Navy official was quoted by Seoul's Yonhap News Agency as saying, noting that the Navy will begin preparations for salvaging the wreckage from Sunday.

The salvage operation will jointly be carried out by the Navy and private companies, the official said, adding that the detailed work plans will be drawn up within the coming week.

The official also said that five sea cranes and three barges will be used to raise the wreckage of the vessel from the seafloor, which will need at least one month.

The military said the exact cause of the warship sinking only can be determined after it is salvaged out of the water.

The incident is believed as one of the biggest disasters in the country's naval history.

Source: Xinhua<i/>
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