SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean Navy ship was sinking off the west coast near its maritime border with North Korea, officials here said Friday,
Officials also said South Korea fired a shot at an unidentified vessel toward the North.
The 1,500-ton ship carrying 104 crew members went down around 9:45 p.m. near a South Korean island in the Yellow Sea, prompting an emergency meeting of security-related Cabinet ministers.
Seoul's Navy officials refused to give details, but said a South Korean vessel fired at a ship toward the North later in the evening, indicating possibilities of a possible torpedo attack from the North. Local residents reported having heard gunfire for about 10 minutes from 11 p.m.
"The ship appears to have begun sinking after an explosion at the rear of the ship," the Navy said in a statement. "We have been unable to find the exact cause of the incident as of this moment."
The Navy said it has rescued 58 crew members during an ongoing rescue operation, but fears some may have died.
North Korea has said in recent weeks it is bolstering its defense in response to joint South Korean-U.S. military drills that were held this month.
The North Korean army conducted dozens of artillery firing drills earlier Friday, according to Seoul's military officials.
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