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