Ferry search operation enters 10th day

April 25, 2014

By Nam Hyun-woo

The emergency task force center deployed all available divers, ships and rescue devices for search-and-rescue operations on the sunken ferry Sewol, Friday, but made little progress, much to the despair of relatives of the missing.

Divers had difficulty searching the wreckage as the neap tide period cycle ended a day earlier.

As of midnight, 185 passengers were confirmed dead with 117 still unaccounted for. The number of rescued remained at 174 of the 476 passengers aboard the ferry.

Military and civilian divers have been concentrating on the third and fourth deck on the 10th day of operations, believing that most of the passengers were trapped in cabins there.

To enable them to stay underwater longer they were provided with air through hoses from air compressors on the surface.

“Some 10 divers are sent simultaneously,” said an official at the center, adding that a total of 88 divers would search the ship for 24 hours from early Friday to Saturday.

The USNS Safeguard, the U.S. 7th Fleet diving and recovery vessel, was expected to arrive at 3 a.m. Saturday, he said.

From Thursday night to Friday morning, families of the missing passengers talked with the Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Lee Ju-young to complain about stalled operations and demand the use of a diving bell.

Accepting their demand, the government said it would introduce this equipment. A civilian diver, an expert in the use of diving bells, also joined the operation. The equipment is used to transport divers to deeper parts of the sea. He alleged that his earlier call for the government to introduce the device in the recovery operation was rejected, citing safety concerns.

The families also complained about the Coast Guard’s replacement of a floating crane, saying this delayed operations.

The replacement is from Undine Marine Industries, which is contracted with Chonghaejin Marine, which owns the ill-fated ship. The government explained that maritime laws stipulate that a contracted company must handle all aspects of post-accident measures, but the families were angry that this only delayed the rescue operation.

Families have been desperately urging the government to speed up the rescue operation, with some of them urging the Coast Guard to complete it within this week and start preparation to raise the 6,825-ton ship.

An official at the center said, “So far, we are prioritizing rescue operations and are not considering lifting the ferry. Raising the ship should be done only after the missing passengers’ family have agreed to it.”

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