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Bad weather hampers search for ferry victims

The search for victims of last month‘s ferry sinking was delayed throughout Sunday by high waves and winds, leaving 29 people still unaccounted for.

A joint team of civilian, government and military rescuers said both the underwater and aerial search operations have been suspended since early Saturday.

With weather alerts in place, some of the vessels taking part in the search operation and divers who had been on standby have taken shelter, the team said, adding that only 1,000-ton or larger ships were conducting the search operation.

The 6,825-ton ferry Sewol was carrying an estimated 476 passengers when it capsized and sank off the southwestern island of Jindo on April 16. A total of 172 people were rescued on the day of the sinking, but 275 of the passengers, mostly high school students on a field trip, have been found dead.

The government’s emergency task force said it will resume the search as soon as the weather improves, possibly Monday morning when the weather alerts are expected to be lifted.

President Park Geun-hye convened an emergency meeting of senior presidential secretaries and decided to soon announce follow-up measures to the ferry disaster, her office Cheong Wa Dae said.

The measures, to be announced by the president in a nationally televised appearance, will include a master plan for ensuring public safety and a plan to reform officialdom, Cheong Wa Dae said.

It did not say when the announcement will be made, but insiders said it will most likely be within this week.

On Saturday, another team of trauma treatment experts from Israel arrived in South Korea to help treat victims of the sunken ferry and their families.

Three doctors from IsraAID, a humanitarian agency, were heading to Jindo Island Sunday afternoon to help families of the missing and educate some 60 local psychiatrists and psychological experts dispatched to the site to treat them.

Last week, three other doctors from IsraAid had come to help treat families and friends who lost loves ones in the disaster.

Investigators looking into the cause of the sinking said they have arrested a senior official of a private company who conducted the last safety check on the Sewol.

They said the 37-year-old official, identified only by his last name Yang, filed a false report without properly checking the safety of the ship.

He allegedly declared to the Korea Ship Register in the report that life rafts on the ill-fated ship were safe to use. Only one of the 46 rafts functioned properly when the ferry sank.

Funeral services for three Danwon High School students who died in the sinking were held earlier in the day. Of those on the ship, some 340 were from Danwon High School, on a school excursion to the southern resort island of Jejudo.

Representatives of victims’ families said over 482,000 people have visited memorial altars set up across the country so far.

They said they also received some 99,000 condolence text messages. (Yonhap)
Korea Herald daum