Search for 11 N.K. sailors continues off southern coast

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 6, 2014 - 20:42
  • Updated : Apr 6, 2014 - 20:42
South Korean authorities continued to face difficulties on Sunday in locating 11 North Korean crew of a sunken Mongolian freighter despite locating its wreckage.

The ship, Grand Fortune 1 crewed by 16 North Koreans, sunk 34 kilometers off the southern port city of Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, on Friday. The South Korean Coast Guard rescued three and recovered the bodies of two sailors on the same day. The rescued sailors and the bodies were returned to North Korea through the Panmunjeom truce village on Sunday.

According to the Coast Guard, the South Korean Navy located the wreckage 50 kilometers southwest of Geomundo Island on Saturday. The wreckage was about 500 meters from where the Grand Fortune 1 sent out an emergency signal on Friday.

The Coast Guard said that recovering the wreckage is unlikely due to the depth of the seas in the area.

The authorities believe that the missing sailors are likely to have died and that the chances of locating them are getting smaller.

Although the Coast Guard has expanded the search to areas up to 80 kilometers from where the emergency signal was sent, search efforts have been hampered by weather conditions.

In addition, the conditions the three sailors were in at the time of their rescue is adding to the view that the missing crew members are unlikely to have survived.

The sailors who were found alive showed symptoms of hypothermia when they were discovered between four and six hours after the accident, while hypothermia is believed to have killed one of the two dead sailors.

With two bodies having been found between 5 and 10 kilometers southwest from the sight of the accident, the authorities believe that the missing sailors may have been taken by current into Japanese seas.

“The Coast Guard from four (jurisdictions) is doing its best including expanding the search area, but high waves are causing difficulties,” a Coast Guard official was quoted as saying by local media.

He added that the search was likely to be conducted along with usual patrol duties if bodies or survivors are not found within a few days.

By Choi He-suk (