[Ferry Disaster] Divers spot bodies inside sunken ferry

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Apr 18, 2014 - 19:22
  • Updated : Apr 20, 2014 - 09:42

A search and rescue team looks for survivors of the sunken Sewol in the waters off coast of Jindo Island, Jeolla Province, Saturday. (Yonhap)

Divers spotted bodies inside the sunken ferry Saturday as search efforts for hundreds missing continued for a fourth day. 

Thirty-two people have been confirmed dead in the disaster in waters off the nation’s southwestern coast and 270 are still missing. Most of them are children on a high school holiday trip.

Dive teams who had spent two days vainly battling powerful currents and near zero visibility, finally penetrated the passenger decks of the 6,825-tonne Sewol.

"Civilian divers spotted three bodies through a window," a senior coastguard officer said.

"They attempted to get in and retrieve them by cracking the window, but it was too difficult," he said in a briefing to relatives of the missing.

Relatives of the missing passengers, who have been sleeping in a gymnasium on Jindo island near the scene of the disaster, were shown video footage from one dive.

Even with a powerful underwater flashlight, visibility was measured in inches as the diver was seen groping his way blindly along the side of the ship with the help of a pre-attached rope.

The coastguard said more ropes were being attached ahead of a major push to get more divers inside.
A total of 476 passengers, including 325 high school students, were reportedly aboard the ship en route to the southern resort island of Jeju from the western port of Incheon.

The total death toll came to 32 as of 6:30 p.m. Saturday as two additional bodies were discovered in waters near the accident site.

"We've yet to get any response from survivors underwater. Divers have continued all-out operations to enter cabins, while pumping air to help them breathe," Coast Guard officer Choi Sang-hwan said.

Experts say people could possibly survive for 72 hours if there are air pockets in the compartments.

"Instead of dispatching two divers at a time, we are to send up to 10 workers at the same time to speed up the job. We are also working to install more guide lines," he said, referring to lines that help workers move inside vessels.

The Coast Guard surrounded the shipwrecked spot in a net to prevent bodies of possible victims from being swept away by the strong underwater currents.
An around 300-meter-long oil plume was spotted surrounding the Sewol. Oil has been leaking from the ferry since late Friday. A total of 203,000 liters of oil, including 139,000 liters of bunker-C oil and 39,000 liters of diesel are thought to be loaded on the ship.

(From news reports)