Thursday, 24 April 2014

South Korea's ferry crash: 159 bodies found, 143 still missing

The death toll from South Korea’s ferry crash has reached 159, with 143 people still missing, the coastal guard of the Chindo island said. The search and rescue team say that the bodies of the missing people are most likely in the 4th level and in the cabins.

Though the weather conditions have improved, the divers are prevented from making further advances by poor visibility.

More than a week after a South Korean ferry carrying 476 people capsized and sank, North Korea finally voiced its condolences Wednesday for the victims of the disaster, including the many schoolchildren who died.

The message was sent between the two Koreas' Red Cross organisations who regularly handle official cross-border communications, the South's Unification Ministry said.

"The North said in the message that it conveys deep condolences that so many passengers, including young students, died or went missing due to the sinking of the ferry Sewol," the ministry said.

Until now, North Korea had been the glaring exception among the messages of sympathy, condolence and support that have poured in from around the world after the Sewol sank with devastating loss of life last Wednesday.

North Korea's state media has barely commented on the tragedy that has dominated global headlines for the past seven days.

The confirmed death toll stood at 150 on Wednesday, but 152 were still unaccounted for, their bodies believed trapped in the inverted, submerged ship.

Heads of state across the political and geographical spectrum have sent personal messages, including US President Barack Obama, Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping.

Not a word, however, from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un who, the North's official KCNA news agency reported, had thoroughly "enjoyed" a performance by the popular, all-female Moranbong Band on the evening of April 16, around the time the full scale of the ferry disaster was emerging.

North and South Korea technically remain in a state of war, as the hostilities of the 1950-53 Korean War were concluded with a ceasefire rather than a formal peace treaty.

Their heavily militarised border remains one of extreme Cold War sensitivity, but declarations of sympathy at times of national grief are not unprecedented.

When North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il - Kim Jong-Un's father - died in December 2011, the South Korean government offered its condolences to the North Korean people

The death toll in the South Korea's ferry crash has risen to 150 people, as the search and rescue team had recovered more bodies overnight, the coastal guard reported on Wednesday. The underwater robots have been employed in the operation for two days, and rescuers mainly concentrate their efforts on the third and fourth levels of the ferry.

A 16-year-old Russian citizen who died in the sinking of South Korean ferry Sewol will be buried on Wednesday in the South Korean city of Ansan where he studied and where his family lives, the consular department of the Russian embassy said, Itar-Tass reports.

The young man was in a large group of senior students from the Danwon high school of the city of Ansan who went by ferry from the port Inchon to the resort island of Jeju last Wednesday.

Along with the Russian teenager, divers lifted two dead Chinese nationals from the hull of the sunken ferry on Monday. According to reports of the Chinese embassy in Seoul, other two Chinese citizens reported missing were on board the ferry.

Two Philippine female citizens were saved from the wrecked ferry.

Crew members detained over South Korea's ferry disaster said Tuesday they had done their best to launch life rafts, and one suggested possible technical reasons for the ship capsizing. The 6,825-tonne Sewol had 29 crew, including its captain Lee Jeon-Sook. Twenty of them escaped the ferry as it sank last Wednesday morning, and there has been public outrage at reports they were among the first to evacuate while hundreds remained trapped in the vessel.

Lee and two crew members were arrested over the weekend and charged with criminal negligence, while another four crew were taken into police custody on Monday.

Those four were paraded, heads bowed and hiding their faces, before TV cameras on Tuesday.

Asked why only one of the Sewol's 46 life rafts had been used, one said conditions had made their deployment impossible.

"We tried to gain access to the rafts but the whole ship was already tilted too much," he said.

"We tried to launch the life rafts but it was hard to get to where they were," another said.

The official death toll stood at 108 Tuesday, with 194 still missing.Most of the passengers were high school students on a holiday trip.

One crew member, apparently an officer, suggested the ferry had a structural flaw that made it difficult to regain equilibrium once it had been lost.

The ship was built in 1994 in Japan and purchased by the Cheonghaejin Marine Company in 2012.

The officer also mentioned "some errors" with the steering system.

The Sewol capsized after making a sharp right turn.

This led experts to suggest its cargo manifest might have shifted, causing it to list beyond a critical point of return.

The confirmed death toll in South Korea's ferry disaster crossed 100 on Tuesday, but almost twice that number remained unaccounted for nearly a week into the rescue and recovery effort.

The official toll provided by the coastguard stood at 104, with 198 still missing. The 6,825-tonne Sewol was carrying 476 people, most of them schoolchildren, when it capsized and sank last Wednesday.

Some 174 people, including the captain and most of his crew, were rescued.

The expected final death toll of around 300 would make this one of South Korea's worst peacetime disasters., AFP reports

A Seoul department store collapsed in 1995, killing more than 500 people, while nearly 300 people died when a ferry capsized off the west coast in 1993.

Russian Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov is ready to assist South Korea in the search-and-rescue operation evolving on the site of the April 16 ferry wreck in the Yellow Sea.

"We sympathize with the people of the Republic of Korea and are ready to render comprehensive support to the victims. The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry can assign specialized diving equipment and proficient divers at any minute," a report posted on the ministry website quoted Puchkov as saying.

The minister extended his condolences to the South Korean government over the ferry sinking.

"We mourn the missing people together with their families and hope that the efforts of search-and-rescue units will bear fruit," Puchkov said.

The ferry Sewol sank off the southwestern coast of South Korea on April 16. According to the latest updates, the death toll has grown to 64 and 238 passengers are missing. There were 476 people, mostly high school students going to a seaside resort, aboard the ferry at the moment of the wreck. Search-and-rescue operations continue on the wreck site.

Thursday 24 April 2014


Post a Comment