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Recovery of sunken Sewol ferry postponed

The recovery of the sunken Sewol ferry has been delayed until August due to unexpected damage caused during the lifting operation which began this week.

But considering the heavy rain and typhoons that are common in late summer and early fall, observers noted, the timeline may further be delayed until September.

According to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries on Thursday, the damage to the ferry‘s bow section has dimmed prospects of the salvage operation by the target date of July.

Two out of five underwater wires that were tied around the bow of the Sewol -- lying 40 meters below the ocean surface -- had penetrated into the ferry as 2-meter waves hit the site early Monday. About 6.5-meter-long and 7.1-meter-long rips were consequently made in the hull.

“We are changing our plan to deter further damage,” Kim Hyun-tae, a senior Maritime Ministry official, said in a press briefing.

According to experts, the lifting of the bow section is the most challenging part of the operation.

The ministry decided to resume the lifting next week using a revised method, but added that the schedule may change upon weather conditions.

It also plans to install 5-meter-long and 1.5-meter-wide stiffeners beneath the damaged bow section to support the 6,825-ton wreck.

The Sewol has been remaining underwater off Jindo Island in South Jeolla Province the past two years and three months. It was carrying 476 people, mostly students on a school trip. Just 172 passengers were rescued, while nine bodies are still missing. Since then, bringing the ferry to land has been a key demand of the victims’ families.

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