By John M. Glionna and Ju-min Park | The Los Angeles Times | Photo: AP

March 30, 2010

Reporting from Seoul – Plunging into the murky waters of the Yellow Sea, South Korean divers on Tuesday drilled a hole into the hull of a sunken patrol vessel in a desperate search for survivors of their nation’s worst naval disaster.

The effort came as a grim South Korea entered its fourth day of searching for why the 1,200-ton combat corvette Cheonan vanished beneath the tense maritime border between the two Koreas late Friday.

The boat broke in two following a mysterious explosion in its hull, officials say. Fifty-eight of the 104 crew members, including the captain, survived but 46 others remained missing. And as hours ticked by, the nation came closer to presuming the men dead.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said late Tuesday that a 53-year-old diver died after losing consciousness while searching the turbulent waters. Military officials said the man was working in nearly 80 feet of water when he collapsed, but it was not clear whether the accident took place inside the downed ship.

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