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Families urge more rescue efforts

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Published : 2014-04-17 19:17
Updated : 2014-04-17 22:54

Families of the missing students from the capsized Sewol ferry stare at the sea from Jindo Port in South Jeolla Province on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Grieving family members of over 200 missing in a ferry disaster on Thursday urged the government to step up efforts in search and rescue operations. 

The family members, gathered at a gymnasium on Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, voiced their frustration as they struggled with overwhelming despair and sadness in the face of a tragedy that shattered their lives overnight.

“I’ve heard from several sources that children are stuck inside the ship, yet the search for the survivors is taking too long,” said a 36-year-old woman surnamed Oh, whose teenage nephew was one of the 287 people still unaccounted for. “The press said hundreds (of rescuers) have been deployed at the site, but we see hardly anyone at work.”

The late search effort and rising death toll added to the families’ anguish. On Thursday morning, the Coast Guard recovered three bodies from the water.

The deafening silence in the gymnasium as the dead students’ names were read out was soon replaced by the earsplitting screams of crushed parents. Some even passed out while shouting out the names of their deceased children.

A mother of a missing student prays for the safe return of her child at Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Tired and stressed out, a woman was receiving IV fluids after she collapsed from nervous exhaustion. An older woman held her hand and comforted her.

Others flurried about, comforting each other and asking if there was any news of loved ones.

Earlier in the day, news reports that a group of survivors were stuck inside the ship spread throughout the gym. Others grew restless over rumors that heaps of dead bodies had been found inside the ferry but the Coast Guard was attempting a cover-up.

The National Police Agency issued a statement urging people not to be swayed by unconfirmed rumors.

As time passed, the families grew even more desperate. Around 1:30 p.m. a list of newly rescued survivors was revealed by one of the parents of a high school student who was aboard the ship.

Although the information was not confirmed by the authorities, parents who found their children’s name on the list let out shouts of joy while other parents burst into tears.

But the families’ frustration was further elevated when an official from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries announced that the oxygen injection process had been delayed to after 5:00 p.m. Infuriated parents shouted profanities and threw objects at the officials.

“How can they just stay and do nothing? Our children are shuddering in the cold water,” said one distressed parent.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)

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