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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, October 21, 2018


Hope fades for nearly 300 missing on South Korea sunken ship

At least 10 people have been confirmed dead and nearly 180 rescued

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JINDO, South Korea - Massive search and rescue operations for the nearly 300 missing people, mostly students, in the South Korean capsized ferry continued for the second day Thursday amid diminished hopes for their survival, officials said.

At least 10 people have been confirmed dead and nearly 180 rescued, among them were 78 students. Military divers fought bad weather, murky water, darkness and time, searching for the missing believed to be trapped deep inside the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast Wednesday.

"We carried out underwater searches five times from midnight until early in the morning, but strong currents and murky water pose tremendous obstacles," said Kang Byung-kyu, minister for security and public administration, during a press briefing. "We will do our best."

But the hopes of saving those trapped faded with parents of the missing students in Seoul expressing anger at the government's response.

The 6,325-ton ferry, Sewol, sailing to Jeju, a South Korean island resort, was carrying 475 passengers and crew when it capsized.

The captain of the ferry, Lee Joon Suk, who is believed to have been the first to escape, is facing questions about the incident. The captain was shown on Korean TV surrounded by reporters, his head and face covered with a gray hoodie and his head bowed to hide his face.

He broke down in tears when reporters asked if he had anything to say. "I am sorry, I am at a loss for words," Lee said at a South Korean Coast Guard office.

Coastguard officials said the captain was being questioned by the Coast Guard and could face criminal investigation, according to South Korean Yonhap news agency.

The officials said they found that the ill-fated ship had deviated from a government-recommended route. "(The ferry) took a path slightly different from the route recommended by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries," Koh Myung-seok, a senior Coast Guard official, told a press briefing in Seoul.

Lee faces the possibility of charges of negligence leading to death and also for violating a law that stipulates the conduct of shipping crew, according to media reports.

Yonhap said that the 10 dead include three 17-year-old students and a 25-year-old teacher from the high school, as well as a 22-year-old female crew member. But the identities of the others were not immediately known.

At the Paeng Mok Harbor in Jindo, about 20 kilometers from the site of the accident, family members were waiting for any news from the sunken ship.

Chang Min, whose second-grade son is missing, said he was livid that search officials are using the word "investigation" and not the word "rescue", according to CNN.

"If the government cares for the people, our family, our children, please rescue our families and our children," he said. The ship's operator, Chonghaejin Marine Corporation, has apologized to the families of the victims.

"We deeply apologize to the families, and I'm saying once again we're really sorry," Chonghaejin executive Kim Young-bung said. "Our company will promise that we will do our best not to lose any more lives."

The president of the company tried to venture out to the sunken ferry but was hospitalized after collapsing from shock on the way. The United States has expressed its condolences to the families of those killed. "We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who lost their lives on board the South Korea ferry, the Sewol," Marie Harf, the State Department's deputy spokeswoman, said in Washington.

Harf described the incident as a "terrible tragedy" and said the United States was ready to provide any assistance needed in the ongoing search-and-rescue efforts.

On Wednesday, the US military send an amphibious assault ship equipped with two helicopters to the scene to help with the search and rescue operations. The ship was on its routine patrol mission in the western sea.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed condolences and sympathy for the victims. > BNN 

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