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[Ferry Disaster] ‘Time to pray for miracles’

Anxious relatives vent frustration as time runs out


JINDO, South Jeolla Province -- Emotions ran high at Paengmok harbor Friday morning, 48 hours after the ferry Sewol sank in the waters off Korea‘s southwestern coast.

Over 1,000 parents and families, news crews, and emergency medical staff had waited at the port all night, foregoing sleep to hear word from the divers searching for survivors. Some 550 divers, including civilian divers, are in the area as part of the massive search-and-rescue effort underway.

The usually quiet Paengmok harbor now resembles a refugee camp. Hundreds of volunteers from the Salvation Army and other relief groups handed out food and water, while the electricity company KEPCO installed lightbulbs in the makeshift tents over the night.

Confusion reigned, with family members of those missing demanding Kim Soo-hyun, the Coast Guard’s chief of the West Regional Headquarters, answer questions about rescue efforts. Kim had arrived in Paengmok early Friday to brief the families and be on hand to give more information.

“Are you getting oxygen into the ship?” asked one father. “It‘s been more than two days. Our children in the ship need oxygen.” Rescuers succeeded in pumping oxgen into the sunken ferry at 10:50 p.m.


Other parents silently wept, whispering their loved ones names, praying for them to return, while some lashed out at the cameramen filming the scene. “Get that thing out of here!” one man yelled, throwing a water bottle at a camera.

Buddhist monks and Catholic nuns joined the scene to offer their prayers, at the edge of the harbor.

“I am just praying that at least some of those missing return here alive,” said Sarah Im, a nun with the Jindo parish. “These are the times when we must pray for miracles.”

By Jeong Hunny (