Divers were preparing to cut open windows on the fourth deck of a submerged ferry on Wednesday in their desperate search for the 16 people still missing from last month’s deadly sinking, officials said.
Since one female body was retrieved a week ago, no progress has been made in search operations for those missing. The death toll from the sinking of the ferry on April 16 stood at 288 as of Wednesday.
As the search efforts dragged on without much headway, the government search team has decided to cut open part of the hull to break into the fourth deck, where some of the missing people are believed to be trapped.
Floating debris and decaying partitions have prevented divers from accessing the inner compartments of the fourth deck.
However, strong winds and strong currents are expected to interrupt the cutting work planned for Wednesday, as well as the broader search operations.
A 780-ton rescue vessel carrying cutting machines and divers arrived at the port of Paengmok, near the shipwreck site, Wednesday morning to join the search operations, rescue officials said.
The barge will be dispatched to the rescue site sometime in the afternoon after considering weather conditions, an official said, adding that the vessel is to be used by the divers who will cut into the hull and remove debris there for easier rescue attempts.
The shipwreck area is notorious for strong currents. Weather and the speed of currents have been the most important factors affecting search operations since the April 16 disaster.
Weather in the area was forecast to be unfavorable, with waves reaching between 1.5 meters and 2.5 meters, and wind blowing at speeds ranging from 8 meters to 12 meters per second, according to the weather service. The weather conditions are forecast to become a little milder in the afternoon.
Government and civilian divers engaged in the search operations planned to search the dining room on the third deck, and passenger compartments on the fourth and fifth decks when the tide turns low during the day. (Yonhap)