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S. Korea Ferry Search Efforts Hampered for 3rd Day

  • Daniel Schearf
  • VOA News

The family member of a missing passenger who was on South Korean ferry Sewol, which sank in the sea off Jindo, is helped as she cries while waiting for news from the rescue team, at a gym in Jindo, Apr. 18, 2014.

The family member of a missing passenger who was on South Korean ferry Sewol, which sank in the sea off Jindo, is helped as she cries while waiting for news from the rescue team, at a gym in Jindo, Apr. 18, 2014.

Efforts to rescue some 270 people from a sunken passenger ferry in South Korea were hampered for a third day as hopes for survivors fades. Anxiety and anger are growing among relatives of the missing, most of them high school students.

Workers at Paengmok Harbor tried to console a parent of one of the missing high school children believed trapped inside the capsized ferry.

Despite earlier reports of success, rescue divers failed in a third day of attempts to get to passengers inside the ship, just 20 kilometers off shore. Oxygen was pumped into the ship in hopes it would reach any survivors.

Divers later tried entering a cargo hold but were not able to go further, in a struggle against wreckage, strong currents and murky water.

Hundreds of volunteers and emergency workers at the harbor tried to comfort distraught relatives angry at the lack of progress and misinformation.

Parents of the missing demanded a road be cleared for any who might be rescued. Authorities quickly obliged, marching in a column of police.

Lee Min-seok, a rescue team captain with the Mokpo Firefighters, explained that the police presence is to keep crowds away so roads are clear enough for ambulances to pass through.

Several ambulances were readied nearby with flashing lights, but the display was cold comfort.

Many realize the odds of surviving this long in the waters of the sunken ship are quite low and the body count is expected to rise.

Vice principal commits suicide

Police say a high school vice principal rescued from the ferry has committed suicide.

Kang Min-kyu, 52, had been the leader of a group of at least 325 students traveling on the ferry on a school trip.

Police say he was found Friday hanging by his belt from a tree near a gym on the island of Jindo where survivors and relatives of those missing have been staying.

He is said to have left a suicide note saying he felt guilty for being alive.

Cranes could try to lift ferry

Authorities have prepared cranes to try to lift the ferry, but relatives demanded they wait until there is certainty that none are alive.

Government, volunteer, and donor tents and food trucks are wrapped around the harbor.

Seo Joon-baek, a Salvation Army officer, says they are preparing food for about 500 people every day. They are also cooperating with other volunteers as well.

It is still not certain what caused the 6,300-ton ferry on Wednesday to sink.

Authorities are looking at the possibility the ship hit something in the water, or a sudden change in course caused a dramatic shift in cargo balance.

The ship captain is also being investigated. Korean authorities said he had put another crew member at the wheel during the disaster, and reports said the captain was among the first to abandon ship.

According to surviving passengers, the crew instructed them to stay put and it was at least half an hour into the disaster before they were told to escape.
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