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Printable Page Headline News   Return to Menu - Page 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 13
 
 
SKorea Ferry Death Toll Hits 150       04/23 06:21

   The grim work of recovering bodies from the submerged South Korea ferry 
proceeded rapidly Wednesday, with the official death toll reaching 150, though 
a government official said divers must now rip through cabin walls to retrieve 
more victims.

   JINDO, South Korea (AP) -- The grim work of recovering bodies from the 
submerged South Korea ferry proceeded rapidly Wednesday, with the official 
death toll reaching 150, though a government official said divers must now rip 
through cabin walls to retrieve more victims.

   The victims are overwhelmingly students of a single high school in Ansan, 
near Seoul. More than three-quarters of the 323 students are dead or missing, 
while nearly two-thirds of the other 153 people on board the ferry Sewol when 
it sank one week ago survived.

   Even with about 150 people still missing, the funeral halls in Ansan are 
already full, Oh Sang-yoon of the government-wide emergency task force center 
said in a statement. He said the center "is taking measures to accommodate 
additional bodies by placing mortuary refrigerators at the funeral halls in 
Ansan," and directing mourning families to funeral homes in nearby cities.

   On Jindo island, where bodies recovered from the ferry are taken, 
descriptions of the dead are read over a loudspeaker. Relatives rush over to 
the main notice board and peered at details added by an official.

   Some relatives cry out and run from the tent. Others stand red-eyed and 
shell-shocked.

   The number of corpses recovered has risen sharply since the weekend, when 
divers battling strong currents and low visibility were finally able to enter 
the submerged vessel. But task force spokesman Koh Myung-seok the work is 
becoming more difficult, and divers must now break through cabin walls to 
retrieve more bodies.

   "The lounge is one big open space, so once in it we got our search done 
straight away. But in the case of the cabins, we will have to break down the 
walls in between because they are all compartments," Koh said.

   Twenty-two of the 29 members of the ferry's crew survived, and 11 have been 
arrested or detained in connection with the investigation. Two were arrested 
Wednesday, senior prosecutor Ang Sang-don said.

   The captain, Lee Joon-seok, and two crew members were arrested Saturday on 
suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. On Tuesday, four crew 
members were arrested and another two were detained without arrest warrants.

   The four crew members arrested Tuesday talked to reporters after a court 
hearing, their faces hidden with caps, hooded sweatshirts and masks.

   One said they tried to correct the ferry's listing early on but "various 
devices, such as the balance weight, didn't work. So we reported the distress 
situation, according to the captain's judgment, and tried to launch the 
lifeboats, but the ferry was too tilted and we couldn't reach."

   The captain has said he waited to issue an evacuation order because the 
current was strong, the water was cold and passengers could have drifted away 
before help arrived. But maritime experts said he could have ordered passengers 
to the deck --- where they would have had a greater chance of survival --- 
without telling them to abandon ship.

   Koh, of the task force, said bodies have mostly been found on the third and 
fourth floors of the ferry, where many passengers seemed to have gathered. Many 
students were housed in cabins on the fourth floor, near the stern of the ship, 
Koh said.

   The cause of the disaster is not yet known. Senior prosecutor Ahn Sang-don 
said investigators are considering factors including wind, ocean currents, 
freight, modifications made to the ship and the fact that it turned just before 
it began listing. He said authorities will conduct a simulation and get 
experts' opinions.

   The Ministry of Ocean and Fisheries had released incomplete data on the turn 
last week because a central station did not receive all the signals the Sewol's 
on-board transponder had sent. It released more complete details on Tuesday 
with data received by another station, and those show that the ferry spent 
about three minutes making a roughly 180-degree turn shortly before it began to 
list.

   It remains unclear why the ship turned around. The third mate, who was 
arrested Saturday, was steering at the time of the accident, in a challenging 
area where she had not steered before, and the captain said he was not on the 
bridge at the time.

   Shareholders of the Sewol's owner, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., apologized 
in a statement that was distributed to reporters outside the office in Incheon, 
saying they feel "infinite sadness and responsibility."

   "We will humbly accept all responsibility for this accident and we will not 
hesitate to do anything to console the pain of victims and grieving families 
even a little bit," said the statement from Yu Dae-kyun, Yu Hyuk-gi and others 
who are de facto owners of Chonghaejin. The company's president had apologized 
earlier.

   In Ansan, a temporary memorial for the victims opened at Olympic Museum, a 
couple of blocks from Danwon High School, which the students attended.


(KA)


 
 
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