64 dead, 238 missing in S. Korean ferry sinking accident
Updated: 2014-04-21 08:20
The VTS official then said patrol boats would arrive in 10 minutes, though another civilian ship was already nearby and had told VTS 10 minutes earlier that it would rescue anyone who went overboard.
Only 174 people are known to have survived the sinking of the Sewol, which had been on its way from the South Korean port city of Incheon to the southern island of Jeju. The captain took more than a half hour to issue an evacuation order - an order several passengers have said they never heard.Divers, who once pumped air into the ferry in the slim hope that survivors were inside, have yet to find anyone alive there.
The Sewol sank with 476 people on board, 323 of them students from a high school in Ansan. The 16- and 17-year-old students make up only 75 of the survivors, and about 225 of the missing. At least 23 of those confirmed dead are students, according to coast guard spokesman Kim Jae-in.
A 21-year-old South Korean sailor, surnamed Cho, died from injuries he sustained Wednesday while working on a warship going to help rescue passengers in the ferry, said Cmdr. Yim Myung-soo of the South Korean navy.
The heartbreaking task of recovering the bodies led to yet another: identifying them. Information sheets taped to the walls of a gymnasium on Jindo island where families of the missing are staying listed details of the bodies such as sex, height, length of hair and clothing.
It was too little for Lee Joung-hwa, a friend of a crew member who is among the missing. "If only they could have made some kind of image of the person's face. Who can tell who this person is just by height and weight?" Lee said.
A woman with a blue baseball cap shouted complaints at government officials who were seated nearby, working at their desks. "I can't live like this! I'm so anxious!" she yelled. "How can I trust the police?"
Anguished families of the missing, fearful they might be left without even their loved ones' bodies, expressed their rage over the government's handling of the crisis several times Sunday.
About 100 relatives attempted a long protest march to the presidential Blue House in Seoul, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) to the north, saying they wanted to voice their complaints to President Park Geun-hye. They walked for about six hours before some 200 police officers in neon jackets blocked them from continuing on a main road.
"The government is the killer," they shouted as they pushed against a police barricade.
"We want an answer from the person in charge about why orders are not going through and nothing is being done," said Lee Woon-geun, father of 17-year-old missing passenger Lee Jung-in. "They are clearly lying and kicking the responsibility to others."
Earlier Sunday morning, relatives of the missing blocked the car of Prime Minister Chung Hong-won and demanded a meeting with Park as Chung made a visit to Jindo. Chung later returned to the gymnasium, but met only with a number of representatives of the family members in a side office.
On Sunday evening, dozens of relatives who gathered at the port in Jindo surrounded the fisheries minister, Lee Ju-young. They shouted, swore, yelled threats and pushed him as he was on his way to a meeting with other officials.
Relatives are desperate to retrieve bodies before they decompose beyond recognition, Lee Woon-geun said.
"After four or five days, the body starts to decay. When it's decayed, if you try to hold a hand it might fall off," he said. "I miss my son. I'm really afraid I might not get to find his body."
Park and her Cabinet took a step Sunday to secure funding needed for search and rescue work and relief, designating Jindo county and Ansan city - the students' hometown, south of Seoul - as a special disaster zone, coast guard spokesman Kim said.