A joint government-civilian rescue team plans to drastically reduce manpower and equipment mobilized for a lengthy search operation for the missing in April's ferry disaster from next month, officials said Sunday.
The government crisis center will unveil the plan when it meets with families of the ferry victims to brief them on the outcome of the search operation so far and decide on the direction of future efforts, the officials said.
But this plan, if adopted, may trigger public controversy, in particular from the families of the 11 people unaccounted for after the 6,825-ton ship sank off the country's southwest coast on April 16.
Hundreds of Navy, Coast Guard and civilian divers have so far worked rotating shifts to search the submerged hull to find those still missing. As of Sunday, the death toll stands at 293, which has seen no change since the rescue team recovered a body last Tuesday.
Under the plan, the authority will cut the number of Navy divers to two-thirds of the current 198 starting next Tuesday and again to half of the current number after July 15 considering growing fatigue among the divers from the protracted search operation, according to the officials.
The authority also plans to scale down the number of Navy ships and commanders put to the operation.
"Monday is an important day for deciding the future path of the search operation," the families said in a statement, indicating that they are closely watching the government task force's upcoming release of search plans. (Yonhap)