December 19, 2014
9 dead, 287 still missing in Korea vessel accident
The rescue operation to save the lives of 287 still missing passengers of the vessel that capsized yesterday in Korean southwestern coast continues today. Nine people were found dead and 179 were rescued, according to the South Korean government.
Rescuers fight rising wind, strong waves and murky water as they continue the search for hundreds of people, most of them teenaged schoolchildren that were on a journey from the port of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju.
Coastguard, navy and some private divers were operating in waters at the site of the accident, about 20 kilometers off the country's southwestern coast. Earlier, rescue teams hammered on the hull of the upturned vessel, hoping for a response from anyone trapped inside, but did not hear anything, media said.
Although the water at the site of the accident is relatively shallow at less than 50 metres depth, it is still highly dangerous for the 150 or so divers who are working as fast as they can, experts said. Time was running out to find any survivors who may be trapped inside, they said.
"The chances of finding people in there are not zero," said David Jardine-Smith, secretary of the International Maritime Rescue Federation, adding however that conditions were extremely difficult.
"There is a lot of water current and silt in the water which means visibility is very poor and the divers are basically feeling their way around."
The government said it was not giving up on the possibility of finding survivors.
Meanwhile, the captain of the ferry, 69 year-old Lee Joon-seok, 69, was facing a criminal investigation today, an official said, amid unconfirmed reports that he was one of the first people to jump to safety as the vessel began sinking. The media said the captain faced possible charges of negligence leading to death and violating a law that governs the conduct of shipping crew.