April 14, 2010 12:14
Most of the upper metal structure of the sunken Navy corvette Cheonan was bent upward in an unexplained blast on March 26, military investigators say. The military on Thursday found that the metal upper deck and hallway near the ripped-off part along the welded seam in the stern had been bent upward. Several survivors had already testified that the upper structure of the stern was bent upward.
On the midship deck, where a chimney was missing, a hole was opened in the metal structure that was bent upward. The floor of the senior chief petty officers' mess and the engine control room below the deck had reportedly been pushed up close to the deck.
The metal plates in the hallway below the stern deck were also bent upward, showing that there had been a big explosion from below. The stern was severed at a slightly oblique angle some 30 m from the back.
"No complete examination of the severed part of the stern has been done yet, but from what we have discovered so far, we believe that an external explosion most likely occurred as a result of a torpedo or a mine attack below the ship, not an internal explosion," a military source said.
The salvage operations were suspended temporarily that day due to high waves and strong wind, but the Defense Ministry decided to salvage the stern on Thursday if weather permits. A ministry spokesman said, "We decided to wrap the third chain around the stern around Wednesday afternoon and salvage it the following day."
Meanwhile, three Australian experts arrived in Korea Tuesday to join efforts to determine the cause of the Cheonan's sinking. Military authorities are considering a memorandum of understanding binding countries that are sending experts to join a civilian-military investigation team to a set of guidelines.
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