Hopes of finding survivors possibly
trapped inside a sunken South Korean Naval patrol boat diminished as rescue
divers heard no reply from inside when they knocked on the hull.
The 69-hour window of survival closed Monday evening as the divers made
vigorous attempts to enter the sunken ship. The 1,200-ton patrol combat vessel
Cheonan sank after an unexplained explosion tore it in half Friday night.
Military authorities were able to locate the submerged front and rear sections
near Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea days after the incident.
The stern is where most of the 46 sailors unaccounted for were believed to be located
at the time of the explosion.
Rescuers recovered 58 sailors within the first
few hours after the explosion.
Military specialists said sailors
had up to 69 hours – or until sometime between 6 to 7 pm Monday – to breathe if
they managed to seal the compartments.
Despite the lack of response, divers geared up to enter the hull, the Joint
Chiefs of Staff said.
“We were able to find that the bow completely submerged, while the stern was
tilted about 90 degrees to the left,” Commodore Lee Kisik, who is in charge of
intelligence operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
“Each team of divers can remain underwater for up to 13 minutes,” said Lee.
“Taking into account the time it takes to go down and resurface, they have up
to eight minutes to work [on the ship].”
In a hearing at the Defence committee the National Assembly
Defence Minister Kim Tae-young told lawmakers “the possibility of survival is
Korean officials have cast doubt on suspicions that North Korea was involved
but haven’t ruled it out.
One theory that’s being considered is that an old North
Korean mine drifted southward and struck the boat.