Thursday, April 17, 2014

South Korea: Update--First Responders Race Against Time to Save 282 Missing Passengers

According to Reuters, first responders struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday (April 17) as they searched for hundreds of people, most of them teenagers from the same school, still missing after a South Korean ferry capsized 36 hours ago.

Earlier, rescue teams hammered on the hull of the capsized, mostly submerged vessel, hoping for a response from anyone trapped inside, but they heard nothing.

The vessel, carrying 475 passengers and crew, capsized on Wednesday during a journey from the port of Incheon to the holiday island of Jeju.

The Coast Guard recovered five more bodies late on Thursday (April 17), raising the death toll to 14 people. 

Another 179 passengers have been rescued, leaving 282 unaccounted for and possibly trapped inside the vessel.

COMMENT: The captain of the ship, Lee Joon-seok, 69, appears to be radioactive, considering that he was one of the first to seek the safety of a lifeboat, rather than remaining aboard his vessel where his duties continued.

Tragically, the forecast for the plight of the large number of passengers that are missing is not looking good, particularly as the passengers' time in the water and the period of time they have been trapped inside increase.

"Today, we have begun looking into the cause of the submersion and sinking ... focusing on any questions about crew negligence, problems with cargo holding and structural defects of the vessel," senior coast guard official Kim Soo-hyun said.

The ferry was found to have three safety deficiencies in 2012, including one related to navigation, but passed subsequent safety checks in 2013 and 2014, according to international and Korean shipping records.

The unlisted operator, which owns four other vessels, reported an operating loss of 785 million won ($756,000) last year.