Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sewol Ferry Disaster updates - death toll rises to 242 , 60 still missing .... Keep all of these families in your prayers ! News of the day and overview ......


New Straits Times......

Updates 5/7/14 .....



(LEAD) All-out efforts to search sunken ferry continue amid weak currents

2014/05/07 16:56
JINDO, South Korea, May 7 (Yonhap) -- Rescue workers continued their intensive search Wednesday for 34 people still missing in the sinking of a ferry 22 days ago amid favorable weather conditions and slow tidal currents.
The 6,825-ton ferry, the Sewol, plying between Incheon, west of Seoul, and the southern resort island of Jeju, sank in waters off South Korea's southwestern island of Jindo on April 16. Of the 476 people on board, 268 have been confirmed dead, with 174 others rescued on the day of the tragedy.
Coast Guard, Navy and civilian divers worked in shifts to open all of the 64 passenger cabins where the missing are thought to be trapped, officials said, adding that they plan to wrap up the search into other convenience facilities comprised of singing rooms, a dining hall and lounge by Saturday.
The Herculean task of retrieving bodies repeatedly halted and resumed overnight as tidal currents became faster than forecast, but divers entered the sunken vessel in the morning as waters slowed down.
The currents are forecast to slow down for four days through Saturday. Waves in the area were expected to reach 0.5 meter, with wind blowing at a speed of 6 to 9 meters per second.
Authorities said they have dispatched military doctors near the sinking site, a day after the death of a civilian diver during the search operation.
On Tuesday, a 53-year-old civilian worker named Lee Kwang-wook fell unconscious shortly after diving into waters around 25 meters deep. The veteran diver from Undine Marine Industries was pronounced dead after being transferred to a nearby hospital.
"One naval surgeon, one military doctor, and two emergency medical technicians were deployed to a ship near waters off the sinking site," Park Seung-kee, a spokesman for the government emergency response team, told a press briefing. "We are still reviewing whether to deploy more civilian doctors."

   The team has also asked fishermen to search the waters near the sinking site amid fears that bodies and belongings of the passengers could be swept away from the sunken vessel.
Despite installing stow nets and having tow-boats trawl closer to the site, authorities have retrieved life vests and what appeared to be some of the victims' personal belongings on Jindo's shoreline.
Tidal currents are slow in waters near the sinking iste of the Sewol on May. 7, 2014 as rescue workers continued their intensive search for 34 people still missing. (Yonhap)

Tidal currents are slow in waters near the sinking iste of the Sewol on May. 7, 2014 as rescue workers continued their intensive search for 34 people still missing. (Yonhap)

(END)



Park to hold emergency economic meeting amid consumption slowdown over ferry tragedy

2014/05/07 15:12
SEOUL, May 7 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye plans to hold an emergency meeting with economic ministers and private experts later this week to check the effects of a recent slowdown in consumption and draw up countermeasures, an official said Wednesday.
Friday's meeting is believed to have been hurriedly set up as consumption shows signs of slowing down as the country has been mournful in recent weeks over the tragic sinking of the ferry Sewol that left more than 300 people dead or missing, most of them high school students.
Attending the session will be Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok, other economy-related ministers, private experts and business representatives, presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said. The meeting is aimed at "checking the economic situation vis-a-vis the recent shrinking of consumption" and drawing up countermeasures, he said.
On Tuesday, Hyun said in a meeting with economic think-tank chiefs that the ferry's sinking is believed to be negatively affecting consumption and activity in the services industry, citing a slowdown in retail sales and consumption in cultural facilities and tourism.
(END)


From before.....




S. Korea Ferry Incident: Divers struggle to open blocked cabins

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SEOUL: South Korean dive teams struggled today to gain access to blocked cabins of a submerged ferry that sank nearly three weeks ago, as the confirmed death toll from the disaster rose to 242.

Six more bodies were recovered early today, 18 days after the 6,825-tonne Sewol capsized and sank with 476 people on board — most of them schoolchildren — while 60 remain unaccounted for.
“Rescuers using some equipment are trying to open blocked cabins,” spokesman Ko Myeong-Suk told a morning briefing.
The search has been hampered by fast currents and high waves, while dive teams have been working in challenging and sometimes hazardous conditions.
They have to grope their way down guiding ropes to the sunken ship, struggling through narrow passageways and rooms littered with floating debris in silty water.
As days go by, personal belongings and other items from the ship have been spotted further and further away, fuelling concerns that some victims of the ferry disaster may never be found.
One body was retrieved Friday by a fishing vessel four kilometres (two miles) away from the recovery site, and another was found two kilometres away on Wednesday.
As a precaution, recovery workers have put rings of netting around the site.
Bedding materials from the ship were found as far as 30 kilometres from the disaster site on Friday.
It is one of South Korea’s worst peacetime disasters, made all the more shocking by the loss of so many young lives.
Of those on board, 325 were students from the same high school in Ansan city, just south of Seoul.
Public anger has focused on the captain and crew members who abandoned the ship while hundreds were trapped inside, and on the authorities as more evidence emerges of lax safety standards and possible corruption among state regulators.
The captain and 14 of his crew have been arrested.
The Sewol’s regular captain, who was off duty on the day of the accident, has told prosecutors that the ferry operator — Chonghaejin Marine Co — brushed aside” repeated warnings that the 20-year-old ship had stability issues following a renovation in 2012.
Two Chonghaejin officials were arrested on Friday on charges of having the ferry overloaded well beyond its legal limit.--AFP

A girl cries during a rally to pay a tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol in Seoul, South Korea. AP Photo.

S. Korea Ferry Incident: S. Korea leader vows to punish disaster culprits

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SEOUL: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye today met relatives of passengers still missing after the sinking of a ferry last month, vowing that any culprits would be “sternly punished” as the confirmed death toll rose to 244.

Eight more bodies were recovered today, 18 days after the 6,825-tonne  Sewol capsized and sank with 476 people on board — most of them schoolchildren  — while 58 remain unaccounted for.
“Anyone responsible for the accident and criminally at fault will be  sternly punished,” Park said during a meeting with relatives camped on Jindo,  the nearest island to the wreck where search operations are centred.
   
“I feel a sense of unlimited responsibility... It is heart-rending to  imagine how you are feeling,” she said, according to a pool report.
   
Television footage showed Park, who was visiting Jindo for the second time  since the ferry sank on April 16, inspecting a tented village set up in the  harbour to manage the process of identifying recovered bodies.
   
The meeting comes days after she apologised for her government’s failure to  combat systemic and regulatory “evils” that may have contributed to the  accident and her comments reiterated an earlier promise to hold those  responsible accountable.
   
The ferry sinking is one of South Korea’s worst peacetime disasters, made  all the more shocking by the loss of so many young lives.
   
Of those on board, 325 were students from the same high school in Ansan  city, just south of Seoul.
   
Public anger has focused on the captain and 14 of his crew who abandoned  the ship while hundreds were trapped inside.
   
But criticism has also been directed at the government, as more evidence  emerges of lax safety standards and possible corruption among state regulators. 
Some victims’ families have rejected Park’s apology.
Dive teams have been struggling to gain access to blocked cabins of the  submerged ferry, with the search hampered by fast currents and high waves.
   
Divers have had to grope their way down guiding ropes to the sunken ship,  struggling through narrow passageways and rooms littered with floating debris  in silty water.
   
As days go by, personal belongings and other items from the ship have been  spotted further and further away, fuelling concerns that some victims of the  ferry disaster may never be found.
   
One body was retrieved Friday by a fishing vessel four kilometres (two  miles) away from the recovery site, and another was found two kilometres away  on Wednesday.
   
As a precaution, recovery workers have put rings of netting around the site.
   
Bedding materials from the ship were found as far as 30 kilometres from the  disaster site on Friday.
   
The Sewol’s regular captain, who was off duty on the day of the accident,  has told prosecutors that the ferry operator — Chonghaejin Marine Co — “brushed aside” repeated warnings that the 20-year-old ship had stability  issues following a renovation in 2012.
   
Two Chonghaejin officials were arrested last week and another on Sunday on  charges of having the ferry overloaded well beyond its legal limit.
   
In Ansan, a dozen masked relatives carrying placards staged a silent  protest Sunday outside a temporary memorial.
   
“We want an investigation to uncover truth so my child can smile,” read one  placard.
   
Ansan, home to the Danwon High School that most of the students on board  the ferry attended, has become a focal point of national mourning. 
   
More than 322,000 mourners have visited the memorial set up following the  tragedy. -- AFP







Yonhap News Agency ......




Death toll from ferry disaster rises to 242

2014/05/04 10:21
SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- Six more bodies were brought out of the submerged ship that sunk off South Korea's southwest coast last month as divers continued their search Sunday for dozens of people still missing from the ferry accident.
The rescue team comprising military and civilian divers retrieved the six bodies from the fourth floor of the sunken ship early in the morning, bringing the confirmed death toll from the tragic ferry sinking to 242 as of Sunday.
Sixty people still remain missing as the national rescue operations continued for the 19th day after the accident.
The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol capsized and sunk off South Korea's southwestern island of Jindo on April 16, en route to the southern resort island of Jeju.
A total of 174 people, including most of the ship's crew members, were rescued within hours after the ship began to list, but no one has been found alive since the ship sank.
The majority of the victims were teenage students from Danwon High School in the city of Ansan, just south of Seoul. More than 300 students from the school's second-year class were aboard the ship on a field trip to Jeju Island.
Swift currents and high waves in the western sea have hampered the rescue operations as rescue divers tried to access inner compartments of the ship where many victims are believed to be trapped.
Concerns have also risen that some bodies of the missing may have been swept out of the submerged ferry after some belongings of the victims were found in waters far off the shipwreck site.
Meanwhile, a continuing stream of citizens paid their respects to the victims of the accident at memorial altars set up across the nation.
As of Sunday morning, a total of 322,600 citizens have visited the memorial altars that enshrine the portraits and nameplates of the teenage students and other victims from the ferry accident.






Park visits shipwreck site, meets families of victims

2014/05/04 14:37
SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye visited a southern port Sunday where families of the victims in last month's ferry accident have been camping out, amid search operations to find the bodies of those still missing from the ship sinking.
In a meeting with dozens of relatives of the ferry victims at Paengmok Port, Park said, "I feel indefinitely responsible for the accident itself as well as dealing with the aftermath."

   Park then pledged "utmost efforts in the rescue operations to the last minute" while also promising to punish those found to be responsible for the tragic accident.
The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol capsized and sank off the southwestern island of Jindo on April 16, en route to the southern resort island of Jeju. Of the 476 people aboard the ill-fated vessel, 174 were rescued shortly after the ship began to list, but no one has been found alive since it sank.
A total of 242 people have been confirmed dead as of Sunday as military and civilian divers continued their search for the 19th day to try to bring out bodies of the missing. Around 60 people still remained missing.
Families of the ferry victims have been camping out at Paengmok Port of Jindo Island, awaiting news of the fate of their loved ones.
It was Park's second trip to the shipwreck site after her first visit the day after the accident.
It also came amid growing criticism over the government's botched rescue attempt, as well as the lack of transparency in the ongoing rescue operations.
"You must be in excruciating pain," Park said in the meeting with the relatives. "It is heartrending to imagine how you must be feeling."

   She added, "A thorough investigation will be conducted to find those who were responsible and criminally at fault ... and they will be punished severely."

   Park also pledged to overhaul the country's safety system during the visit.
President Park Geun-hye talks to Oceans and Fisheries Minister Lee Ju-young during her visit to Paengmok Port as rescue operations continued for the 19th day on May 4, 2014, following the sinking of the ferry Sewol in April. (Yonhap)

President Park Geun-hye talks to Oceans and Fisheries Minister Lee Ju-young during her visit to Paengmok Port as rescue operations continued for the 19th day on May 4, 2014, following the sinking of the ferry Sewol in April. (Yonhap)









Divers suffer growing fatigue from prolonged ferry search

2014/05/02 15:36
JINDO, South Korea, May 2 (Yonhap) -- Divers participating in the search of a sunken ferry face growing health risks from swimming in cold, murky waters for extended stretches, with several suffering from decompression sickness, officials said Friday.
Hundreds of Coast Guard, Navy and civilian divers have battled strong currents and high tides to bring a steady flow of bodies from the upturned ferry Sewol that sank in waters off the southwestern island of Jindo on April 16.
The confirmed death toll has risen to 226 and 76 still remain missing, with many of them believed to be trapped inside the ship.
The search and rescue operation has long since turned into a grueling recovery of corpses as no one has been found alive since the day of the ship's sinking. The work has been becoming even more difficult as divers have had to break through closed cabin doors blocked by debris.
As search efforts continued round-the-clock over the past several days amid growing pressure from grieving families, divers have increasingly suffered exhaustion, with some of them treated for decompression sickness after ascending from depths of over 30 meters.
On Thursday, a 31-year-old civilian diver fell unconscious after diving four times before daybreak to set guideline ropes around the ship, raising concern over the safety of divers.
He received treatment at a hyperbaric oxygen therapy center, but continued to complain of a severe headache and pains in his pelvis, typical symptoms of decompression sickness, according to hospital officials.
Decompression sickness is a painful and potentially dangerous condition that strikes deep sea divers who surface too quickly or stay in cold waters for a long time, causing paralysis, vomiting, and aching pains in joints, the ears and other parts of the body.
"For the first time in my 20 years of a diving career, I was seized by fear that I might not be able to return from underwater," a senior diver told Yonhap News after his colleague fell unconscious.
So far, dozens of divers have received treatment in the oxygen chamber that provides patients with pure oxygen in a sealed chamber that has been pressurized above normal atmospheric pressure.
As the search is expected to last throughout next week, the government disaster response team limited each diver to swimming only once a day to prevent decompression sickness.
The work is still tough as the difference between high and low tide is the highest at the disaster site during this time of year. Currents are stronger by about 40 percent during spring tides compared with the period of neap tides when the difference is the smallest.
"I become exhausted even after one diving a day due to strong currents and deep diving," another civilian diver said. "Figuratively speaking, it's like riding a roller coaster for dozens of minutes or up to one hour."

   Families have also raised concern that rescue workers may not be able to retrieve all bodies from the upturned ship as several bodies have recently been retrieved from waters far from the disaster site.
One body, believed to be that of a female student, was found about 4 kilometers southeast of the disaster site. The location was in the opposite direction from a site where another body was recovered two days ago.
The government disaster response team has set up multiple nets around the area to prevent bodies from being swept away by strong currents, officials said.


What went wrong ? Overloading  for one thing .......

Pilot error for another ... toss in maritime police mishandling search and 

rescue operations for a third thing.....





http://www.chron.com/news/world/article/South-Korea-ferry-was-routinely-overloaded-5451637.php

South Korea ferry was routinely overloaded


By YOUKYUNG LEE, Associated Press | May 4, 2014 | Updated: May 4, 2014 1:49pm
  • FILE - In this April 16, 2014 file photo, South Korean coast guard officers try to rescue passengers from the Sewol ferry as it sinks in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea. The doomed ferry Sewol exceeded its cargo limit on 246 trips - nearly every voyage it made in which it reported cargo - in the 13 months before it sank, according to documents that reveal the regulatory failures that allowed passengers by the hundreds to set off on an unsafe vessel. And it may have been more overloaded than ever on its final journey.  KOREA OUT Photo: Uncredited, AP / YONHAP
    Photo By Uncredited/AP 
    FILE - In this April 16, 2014 file photo, South Korean coast guard officers try to rescue passengers from the Sewol ferry as it sinks in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea. The doomed ferry Sewol exceeded its cargo limit on 246 trips - nearly every voyage it made in which it reported cargo - in the 13 months before it sank, according to documents that reveal the regulatory failures that allowed passengers by the hundreds to set off on an unsafe vessel. And it may have been more overloaded than ever on its final journey. KOREA OUT

1 of 3
  • FILE - In this April 16, 2014 file photo, South Korean coast guard officers try to rescue passengers from the Sewol ferry as it sinks in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea. The doomed ferry Sewol exceeded its cargo limit on 246 trips - nearly every voyage it made in which it reported cargo - in the 13 months before it sank, according to documents that reveal the regulatory failures that allowed passengers by the hundreds to set off on an unsafe vessel. And it may have been more overloaded than ever on its final journey.  KOREA OUT
  • In this Wednesday, April 16, 2014 file photo, South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue passengers from the ship in water off the southern coast in South Korea. The doomed ferry Sewol exceeded its cargo limit on 246 trips - nearly every voyage it made in which it reported cargo - in the 13 months before it sank, according to documents that reveal the regulatory failures that allowed passengers by the hundreds to set off on an unsafe vessel. And it may have been more overloaded than ever on its final journey.  KOREA OUT
  • Crew members of the sunken ferry Sewol prepare to leave a court which issued their arrest warrant, in Mokpo, South Korea, Saturday, April 26, 2014. All 15 surviving crew members involved in the ferry’s navigation have been arrested, accused of negligence and failing to protect passengers. Prosecutors also detained three employees of the ferry owner who handled cargo, and have raided the offices of the ship owner, the shipping association and the register. Heads of the shipping association and the register offered to resign in the wake of the disaster.   KOREA OUT

INCHEON, South Korea (AP) — The doomed ferry Sewol exceeded its cargo limit on 246 trips — nearly every voyage it made in which it reported cargo — in the 13 months before it sank, according to documents that reveal the regulatory failures that allowed passengers by the hundreds to set off on an unsafe vessel. And it may have been more overloaded than ever on its final journey.
One private, industry-connected entity recorded the weights. Another set the weight limit. Neither appears to have had any idea what the other was doing. And they are but two parts of a maritime system that failed passengers April 16 when the ferry sank, leaving more than 300 people missing or dead.
The disaster has exposed enormous safety gaps in South Korea's monitoring of domestic passenger ships, which is in some ways less rigorous than its rules for ships that handle only cargo. Collectively, the country's regulators held more than enough information to conclude that the Sewol was routinely overloaded, but because they did not share that data and were not required to do so, it was practically useless.
The Korean Register of Shipping examined the Sewol early last year as it was being redesigned to handle more passengers. The register slashed the ship's cargo capacity by more than half, to 987 tons, and said the vessel needed to carry more than 2,000 tons of water to stay balanced.
But the register gave its report only to the ship owner, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd. Neither the coast guard nor the Korean Shipping Association, which regulates and oversees departures and arrivals of domestic passenger ships, appear to have had any knowledge of the new limit before the disaster.
"That's a blind spot in the law," said Lee Kyu-Yeul, professor emeritus at Seoul National University's Department of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering.

Chonghaejin reported much greater cargo capacity to the shipping association: 3,963 tons, according to a coast guard official in Incheon who had access to the documentation but declined to release it.
Since the redesigned ferry began operating in March 2013, it made nearly 200 round trips — 394 individual voyages — from Incheon port near Seoul to the southern island of Jeju. On 246 of those voyages, the Sewol exceeded the 987-ton limit, according to documents from Incheon port.
The limit may have been exceeded even more frequently than that. In all but one of the other 148 trips, zero cargo was recorded. It is not mandatory for passenger ferries to report cargo to the port operator, which gathers the information to compile statistics and not for safety purposes.
More than 2,000 tons of cargo was reported on 136 of the Sewol's trips, and it topped 3,000 tons 12 times. But the records indicate it never carried as much as it did on its final disastrous voyage: Moon Ki-han, a vice president atUnion Transport Co, the company that loaded the ship, has said it was carrying an estimated 3,608 tons of cargo.
The port operator has no record of the cargo from the Sewol's last voyage. Ferry operators submit that information only after trips are completed. In that respect, the rules for domestic passenger ships are looser than those for cargo-only vessels, which must report cargo before they depart.
Details from the port documents were first reported by the South Korean newspaper Kukmin Daily.
In paperwork filed before the Sewol's last voyage, Capt. Lee Joon-seok reported a much smaller final load than the one Moon described, according to a Coast Guard official who had access to the report but refused to provide a copy to the Associated Press. The paperwork said the Sewol was loaded with 150 cars and 657 tons of cargo.
That would fall within the 987-ton limit, but it's clearly inaccurate: The coast guard has found 180 cars in the water.
An official with the Korea Shipping Association's safety team said it is beyond the association's capacity to determine whether a ship is carrying too much cargo. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to discuss the Sewol case as it is being investigated.
"What we can do is to see the load line is not submerged," he said. The load line, a marking on the outside of a vessel, indicates whether a ship is overloaded, but it does not show whether it has the sort of balance between cargo and ballast that the register report said was necessary.
"The only person on any vessel who knows the exact cargo safety limit, excluding ballast water, fuel, passengers and others, is the first mate," the official said.
All 15 surviving crew members involved in the ferry's navigation have been arrested, accused of negligence and failing to protect passengers. Prosecutors also detained three employees of the ferry owner who handled cargo, and have raided the offices of the ship owner, the shipping association and the register. Heads of the shipping association and the register offered to resign in the wake of the disaster.
The cause of the sinking remains under investigation, but experts have said that if the ship were severely overloaded, even a small turn could cause it to lose its balance. Tracking data show the ship made a 45-degree turn around the time it began sinking; crew members have reportedly said that something went wrong with the steering as they attempted a much less severe turn.
Some experts say the Sewol never should have been cleared to operate after last year's redesign because the owner would not be able to make money under the register's new cargo limits.
The ferry operator "was trying to make a profit by overloading cargos," said Kim Gil-soo, a professor at Korea Maritime and Ocean University in Busan, "and public agencies that should have monitored did not monitor that."
According to South Korean law, the association may report violations to either the coast guard or the state-run port operator, but both entities said they were never told of excessive cargo on the Sewol. The shipping association has refused to say how often it has reported violations.
A coast guard official said the shipping association should have reported any excessive cargo to the operator of Incheon port, where the Sewol last departed. An official with the port operator says it is the coast guard that should have been alerted. The coast guard official spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he was not authorized to speak about matters under investigation; the port official refused to provide his name.
South Korea, unlike many other countries, relies on a private industry-affiliated body to determine whether a ship is safe to sail. The shipping association, whose members are shipping companies and ship operators, took on that responsibility in 1973, following a 1970 sinking in which about 320 people died.
Captains submit paperwork to the association indicating how much cargo is on board as well as crew and passengers.
The shipping association, which also oversees crew education, is partly government-funded, but its biggest business is selling insurance to its members.
Its website says about 75 percent of its 110 billion won ($107 million) budget for 2014 was allocated to its insurance department. The budget for the department dealing with domestic passenger ship safety was 7.4 billion won ($7.2 million). The association has 71 safety inspectors at 13 South Korean ports and its headquarters.
Many of the association's high-level officials come from the Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries, which some say makes it tough for the ministry to scrutinize the group. Ministry officials may be reluctant to question association officials who are former senior public servants, or even their former bosses.
The register, which made the cargo limit evaluation, also is a private entity.
In Europe, North America and Japan, regulation is generally done by public bodies such as the U.S. Coast Guardand the U.K.'s Maritime and Coastal Agency. In Japan, the government checks ships once a year, and conducts unannounced inspections of crew qualification and emergency training.
At the same time, it's common for governments to rely on ship captains to report their loads accurately. It would be virtually impossible to check every boat, experts say.
Since the Sewol disaster, the oceans ministry has been considering taking the job of overseeing passenger-ship safety away from the shipping association, ministry official Kwon Jun-young said. Kwon said they are discussing which agency or agencies should take up on the job.
___
Associated Press writers Jung-yoon Choi in Seoul, Sylvia Hui in London and Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.




http://theinsidekorea.com/2014/04/ferry-disaster-ferry-investigation-targets-maritime-police/






Ferry Disaster : Ferry investigation targets maritime police


South Korean authorities on Sunday expanded their probe into the ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing as search and rescue operations continued at a slow pace off the southern coast.
Since the passenger ferry Sewol sank on April 16, the death toll has climbed to 188, with 114 still unaccounted for, as of 6 p.m. Sunday.
As part of the investigation into the accident, investigators requested search warrants for the Coast Guard in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, to look into whether the maritime police mishandled its rescue response. Investigators plan to raid the situation room of the Coast Guard on Monday if its warrant is granted by the court.
Prosecutors will also investigate whether the maritime police reacted to the distress call in accordance with its manual and whether their response was appropriate.
Public criticism has mounted over the Coast Guard’s initial response after it was discovered that it had asked a teenage passenger, who first called for help, about the latitude and longitude of the site.
Earlier in the day, prosecutors raided Jeju Vessel Traffic Service and seized communications log and surveillance camera records to look into possibilities of negligence of duties, officials said.
The Jeju VTS was the first service that Sewol crew members contacted for urgent help, a few minutes after passenger’s report to the maritime police. Receiving the report from the ferry crew, the Jeju VTS passed the report to the Jindo VTS as the ferry was within the Jindo VTS control area.
This is the second raid following the Jindo VTS office. On Saturday, the authorities seized communication and phone records that were conducted between the Jindo office and the ferry crew.
The Jindo VTS is accused of neglecting its duties to monitor the ferry in the emergency situation in its control area. It did not acknowledge the situation of the ferry for 18 minutes from the occurrence, investigators said.
Investigators will look into any delays or mishandlings regarding the communication of between the two VTS offices.
While most of the nation’s VTS offices including the Jeju one are under the Oceans and Fisheries Ministy’s control, the Jindo office is under the maritime police’s authority.
The divided control of the VTS offices may have caused some delays in the initial rescue work, critics suspected.
The control was split into two after an oil spill occurred off the west coast near Taean, South Chungcheong Province, in 2007. The Coast Guard requested to the Prime Minister’s Office to have the authority over the VTS offices in coastal areas to enhance its control over ships. The maritime police said the control transfer would help prevent potential oil spills as the maritime police have investigation rights unlike the Oceans Ministry.
In addition to the seizure and search of the VTS offices, prosecutors on Saturday detained four more crew members on charges of abandoning ship without helping passengers evacuate, taking a total 15 crew members into custody. Other members including the captain were arrested earlier.
For the captain, investigators listed five charges including negligence of duty and the violation of the maritime rescue rules. Authorities are reviewing whether a murder charge is applicable for the 69-year-old captain as well, sources said.
The captain ordered passengers to stay in their cabins until the ship regained balance, leaving many to drown, survivors said.
Meanwhile, search and rescue operations made little progress over the weekend due to the bad weather.
The Coast Guard and Navy divers attempted to search the third- and fourth-deck cabins where most of the missing are believed to remain trapped. Operations, however, were suspended around Saturday at midnight for a half day due to strong winds and high currents. High-sea alerts were also issued Sunday.
Floating objects within the hull of the sunken ferry also impeded the divers’ work, delaying the pace of the operations, authorities said.
While the search work was underway, many people nationwide mourned the deaths of the ferry victims.
Mourners line up to visit the memorial altar in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. The playing field of a neighboring public school was used to accommodate the large number of visitors.
Mourners line up to visit the memorial altar in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. The playing field of a neighboring public school was used to accommodate the large number of visitors.
As of Sunday at noon, more than 130,000 mourners have visited the memorial altar temporarily set up in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, since last Wednesday.
Funerals of 27 other victims were held at several hospitals in Ansan on Sunday.
Hundreds of citizens joined events commemorating the deaths of the victims.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government on Sunday opened a memorial altar in Seoul Plaza as citizens pointed out the lack of venues to express their condolences outside of Ansan.
A dozen local governments also decided to open regional memorial altars in their cities from Monday.
By Lee Hyun-jeong | The Korea Herald




Business Insider........




Pilot Of Capsized South Korea Ferry Was A 25-Year-Old Rookie

south korean ferry captain arrest warrant
Yonhap/AP
Lee Joon-seok, third from left, the captain of the ferry Sewol that sank off South Korea, and two crew members prepare to leave a court which issued their arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014.

They are the most treacherous waters in Korea but the person at the helm of the Sewol was not its experienced captain but a 25-year-old third mate who was navigating them for the first time.
"I briefly went to my bedroom," admitted 69-year-old captain Lee Joon-seok for the first time. "I was on my way back when the accident happened."
Capt Lee's decision to step away from the bridge was the first of a chain of calamitous errors that seem set to cost more than 300 lives, almost all of teenage students.
No one has been found alive from the ship since just after it sank on Wednesday morning and after more than 100 hours submerged in icy water, the window for anything other than a miracle has firmly closed.
The third mate, Park Hyun-kul, was a novice who had only been at sea for roughly a year, first working on ships sailing to China and joining the Chonghaejin ferry company five months ago.
A senior prosecutor working on the case, Yang Jung-jin, told reporters she had never navigated the cluster of islands on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula before, but that she had taken the wheel because the ship's delayed departure had thrown the duty roster out of kilter.
While the ferry was travelling at a normal speed of 18 knots, roughly 20mph, Ms Park's sharp left turn in the early hours of Wednesday morning has now been confirmed by the Korean coastguard as the cause of the disaster.
Investigators have raised the possibility that as the ship swerved, the 180 cars and 1,100 tons of shipping containers in its hold fell to one side, causing the Sewol to tilt irretrievably.
South Korea ferry
AP
Passengers from a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast are rescued by a South Korean Coast Guard helicopter.
"If there turns out to be a hole below the waterline, then it may have been a collision, if the hull is intact, it was probably a ship loading issue," saidChris Ware, a professor at the Greenwich Maritime Institute.
"A speed of 18 knots is not excessive. The ship should be able to turn sharply in case it needs to avoid something, as long as the cargo is properly secured. The crew need to make sure the cargo is stored to keep the centre of buoyancy where it is supposed to be," he added.
Ms Park was silent as she was led to jail in handcuffs, together with Capt Lee and 55-year-old coxswain Cho Joon-ki. But Capt Lee paused before reporters, his eyes lowered to the ground under a black hooded jacket, and made a trembling apology.
"I understand there are some things that are my fault. I am sorry I caused the trouble. I apologise to all Koreans and especially I bow my head in apology to the family of the victims," he said.
He insisted that he had eventually given an order to evacuate the ship, but had initially instructed passengers to remain where they were because rescue ships had not yet reached the Sewol.
"The boat was in an area of very strong current, the temperature of the ocean water was cold and I thought if people left the ferry without proper judgment, if they not were wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties," he explained.
"The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats around at that time."
The three crew members face five charges including negligence and violation of South Korea's Seafarer's law, which required him to take every action possible to protect his passengers and ship.
"There is a special rescue procedure for ocean-bound ships and the captain did not take the right steps to follow it," said Dae Sik-Hwang, the grizzled head of Korea's Maritime Rescue Association.
"All the students wore their life jackets, but nobody thought the ship would tip over so quickly and they were shocked. Probably the captain did not think the ship would capsize so quickly and did not look for the evacuation manual for that situation," he added.
By the time the order to abandon the Sewol was finally given, the ship was listing at such a steep angle that its passengers were fatally trapped.
"The initial 15 minutes is when you get people to evacuation stations because that is the critical period of the operation so they can get into dinghies or life boats," said Prof Ware, noting that the Herald of Free Enterprise ferry had capsized just 20 minutes after leaving Zeebrugge harbour in 1987.
"The captain said he didn't give the order because the rescue boats had not arrived, but it is safer for passengers in a small contained life raft then in a ship leaning at 20 degrees when you cannot get them off or they have to jump," he added.
Prof Ware said the Sewol, which had recently passed a Korean safety inspection, was on the shipping register and probably complied with international safety laws.
But prosecutors have raided the offices of the ship's operator, the Chonghaejin Marine Company and a shipyard to investigate claims that the company added more cabins to the back of the ferry to boost its capacity to over 900 passengers but possibly making it top-heavy.
Chonghaejin has also been involved in several other incidents. Just three weeks before the Sewol sank, another of the company's ships hit a fishing boat in thick fog, without any injuries to passengers.
In February last year, a 6,322-ton passenger ship belonging to Chonghaejin arrived at the western port city of Incheon six hours behind schedule because of engine failure. The same boat had also ground to a halt outside Incheon in April 2011 and required emergency repairs at sea before returning to port.
In April 2011, the same boat stopped shortly after leaving Incheon due to engine trouble. After making some repairs at sea, the boat returned to the port some five hours later.
At the site of the submerged ferry, search teams suffered another frustrating day of slow progress with conditions worsening as the day wore on and only a handful of bodies retrieved.
One of South Korea's most famous diving specialist, Lee Jong-in, the head of a company that salvaged the Cheonan warship in 2010, heavily criticised the government for continuing to botch the rescue operation.
"The navy seals, navy divers, special forces just are not trained for this. They are trained for counter terrorism and war, not for penetrating a wreck and searching for survivors," he said.
"It should not be a political game, but from the beginning they took the wrong path and thought they could handle it. Now if they allow professional divers in and these divers come up with much better results then it will be a very difficult situation for them. I think their whole unit should step back and allow professionals to take over."
Half-a-mile long and just under three miles wide, the Maenggol waterway is a shortcut through the cluster of islands at the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. But it also boasts a turbulent swirl of fast-moving currents.
On the shore of Jindo island, a statue commemorates Yi Sun-sin, a 16th century Korean admiral who repelled 133 Japanese ships with a fleet of just 13 by manipulating the rapid currents of the local waters.
A five-year girl has emerged as a symbol of the horrors of the government-led operation after not receiving proper medical post-trauma care in the vast Jindo gymnasium after being rescued from the ship, despite having lost all her immediate family.
President Park Geun-hye was seemingly unaware that Kwon Jee-yeon had lost her mother, father and brother when she visited the stadium and touched the girl on the cheek. It later emerged the girl was in such severe shock she could not eat but had not been taken into care.
The South Korean media reported that her six-year-old brother had put a life jacket on her and left her on deck before going to find his father. "I saw her all by her self, wet and crying hard so I held her and jumped onto a rescue boat," said Park Hojin, a 16-year-old student at Danwon high school. "I held her until the boat arrived at the harbour and handed her to a rescue team," he added.
The girl was moving with her brother, her 51-year-old Korean father and her 29-year-old Vietnamese mother to Jeju island where the family planned to live on a farm.