NATIONAL

Sewol finally moved ashore

By Kim Da-sol
  • Published : Apr 9, 2017 - 15:48
  • Updated : Apr 9, 2017 - 18:09
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said Sunday the raised Sewol ferry had been moved onto land, almost three weeks after the sunken Sewol ferry was brought back to the surface.

Engineers worked Sunday to move the raised ship onshore, after it ran a final test to move the shipwreck to land that morning.

The entire hull of the 145-meter Sewol ferry, loaded on some 600 modular trailers, is towed to land in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, Sunday. (Yonhap)

“Following a successful test run, operators began the land-transfer operation by loading the Sewol onto transporters,” said Lee Cheol-jo, a ministry official heading the salvage operation team.

At around 1 p.m., the team started to move the ferry slowly ashore, carried on some 600 modular trailers -- low platforms with motorized wheels.

At 5:40 p.m., the entire hull of the 145-meter-long Sewol had been brought to land. The wreck, still carried on the trailers, was taken to the right-hand side of a dock area inside the port for a search of its interior, the ministry said.

Authorities expected the whole unloading process will be completed by Monday morning at the latest.

The land-transfer task had been held up by technical problems, as the ship was heavier than originally expected.

The wreck, originally an 8,000-8,500-metric-ton vessel, is estimated to now weigh about 17,000 metric tons including the remaining water and mud inside.

On Sunday, the ministry also resumed the underwater search of the wreck site, which has been delayed several times due to unfavorable weather and high waves.

For a detailed search underwater, the operation team installed earlier this year forty 40-by-20-meter nets around a 32,000-square-meter area on the seabed where Sewol sank.

Over the next two months, 30 divers will take turns to search the area with small shovels and sonar devices.

Once the Sewol is successfully loaded on a dry dock, the rusty wreck will go through a cleansing and disinfection operation expected to last a few days. Then a group of 20 inspectors will start searching for any remains of the nine victims who are still unaccounted for.

People in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, watch the towing of the Sewol ferry from the sea to land, Sunday. (Yonhap)

The Sewol ferry has been aboard a semisubmersible vessel since it arrived at Mokpo Port on March 31, a week after it was raised in waters off Jindo.

The ill-fated ferry was lying at a depth of 44 meters on the seafloor for almost three years after it sank in waters off the island Jindo in 2014, leaving 304 people dead, mostly high school students on a school trip.

Meanwhile, officials from a British marine surveying firm, Brookes Bell, launched an initial survey of the hull.

As of Sunday, 101 items, including a passport and other personal belongings presumed to belong to passengers have been retrieved from the wreck, the ministry said.

Nine bone fragments were found, but on-site inspectors from the National Forensic Service confirmed they were from animals.

The passport belonged to Lee Joon-seok, 70, who is serving 36 years in prison for negligence and dereliction of duty as captain.

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)