Relatives Grieve As Divers Pull Bodies From S. Korean Ferry

By L. Carol Ritchie NPR

The recovery operation at the site of a sunken ferry off the South Korean coast continues Sunday, as police boats brought bodies ashore to the deafening cries and screams of family members, said CNN.

The grim work is just beginning: About 250 people are still missing. The death toll now stands at 52, South Korean disaster officials told reporters Sunday. Twenty-three of the dead are students.

Police who carried the bodies on stretchers past grief-stricken survivors were also crying, according to CNN.

Divers are finding various ways inside the ferry, locating bodies in various locations throughout the ship, the AP said. But they haven’t found anyone who’s still alive, and hopes that anyone survived within the ship are dimming by the hour.

The ferry Sewol sank on Wednesday. In the hours after the accident, 174 passengers and crew members were rescued, but none have been found alive since.

Captain Lee Jun-seok spoke to reporters as he was taken to jail Sunday, saying he ordered passengers to stay on the ferry for fear that they might freeze or be swept away in the strong currents, said NPR’s Anthony Kuhn. Prosecutors are charging Lee with negligence and abandoning passengers in need, Kuhn tells our Newscast desk.

He had given the helm to the 23-year-old third mate, Park Han-gyeol, who had never navigated through the treacherous waters and unpredictable currents of that stretch of the Yellow Sea off the Korean’s peninsula’s southwest coast, according to the New York Times:

“For ages, the 3.7-mile-long, 2.8-mile-wide Maenggol Waterway has provided a shortcut for ships that try to save fuel or time navigating waters dotted with islets off the southwestern tip of the Korean Peninsula. But the channel also has a reputation for having one of the most rapid and unpredictable currents around the peninsula.”

Park was arrested along with the captain and helmsman.

Relatives of passengers, furious with the pace of the recovery effort, staged an unsuccessful protest Sunday, the AP says:

“Meanwhile, on an island near the submerged ferry, about 200 police in neon jackets blocked about 100 relatives of missing passengers who’d been walking on a main road in an effort, they said, to travel to the presidential Blue House in Seoul to voice their complaints to the president.

” ‘The government is the killer,’ they shouted as they pushed against a police barricade.”

Divers failed to gain access to the ferry for three days after the accident because of bad weather. Heavy cranes are at the scene, ready to be deployed when the operation’s rescue and recovery phase officially ends, and its salvage phase begins.

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