Ferry disaster: Floating objects slow recovery of bodies

Posted By: IANS
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South Korea
Seoul, April 27: Corridors and passenger cabins of the sunken South Korean ferry, which capsized off the country's southwestern coast, were jammed with floating objects, hampering search for bodies trapped inside the hull amid fast currents and bad weather.

As of Saturday night, 187 people have been confirmed dead, and 115 others remained missing. No one has been found alive since 174 passengers and crew were rescued April 16 when the ferry sank en route to the southern resort island of Jeju from western port of Inchon, Xinhua reported.

Two thirds of 476 people on board were students and teachers of the Danwon High School in Ansan, a city south of Seoul, who were on a field trip.

Only two more bodies were recovered Saturday as floating objects were crammed into corridors and cabins. "A variety of obstacles such as chairs, beds and tables are blocking corridors and spaces where divers are moving," said Koh Myung-seok, a coast guard official.

The 6,825-tonne ferry, Sewol, was totally submerged upside down. Divers searched all places accessible, including lounges and compartments on the starboard side and in the middle part of the ship.

South Korean navy captain Kim Jin-hwang told reporters that the port side was jammed with most objects, making search harder.

Divers broke open windows or made hole in walls to enter passenger cabins, where many bodies were believed to be trapped. Another daunting difficulty facing divers was rapid currents off Jindo Island.

Weather conditions worsened. It began to rain Saturday night in the area. According to weather forecast, wind will blow at a speed of 9-14 metres per second Sunday and waves will be as high as 1-3 metres.

Around 100 coast guard, navy and private divers mainly searched passenger cabins on the third and fourth floors of the five-storey vessel. Over 200 ships and 36 helicopters scoured the waters for floating bodies.

The US Navy's salvage ship USS Safeguard will give a hand. US Navy divers will also join the search operations if needed.

Rescue experts from the US, the Netherlands, Britain and Japan have been providing counseling.


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