South Korea ferry captain ‘arrested’

More than 270 remain missing as air pumped into vessel in attempt to sustain any survivors

Fri, Apr 18, 2014, 22:18

About 30 minutes later, the captain finally gave the order to evacuate, Mr Oh said, adding that he was not sure if, in the confusion and chaos on the bridge, the order was relayed to the passengers. Several survivors told the AP that they never heard any evacuation order.

Mr Lee, the captain, made a brief, videotaped appearance with his face hidden by a grey hoodie. “I am really sorry and deeply ashamed,” he said. “I don’t know what to say.”

Three vessels with cranes arrived at the accident site to prepare to salvage the ferry. But they will not hoist the ship before getting approval from family members of those still believed inside because the lifting could endanger any survivors, said a coastguard officer.

On Jindo, angry and distraught relatives watched the rescue attempts. Some held a Buddhist prayer ritual, crying and praying for their relatives.

“I want to jump into the water with them,” said Park Geum-san, 59, the great-aunt of a missing student, Park Ye-ji. “My loved one is under the water and it’s raining. Anger is not enough.”

Chonghaejin Marine Co, in Incheon, the operator of the ferry, added more cabin rooms to three floors after its 2012 purchase of the ship, which was built in Japan in 1994, an official at the private Korean Register of Shipping told the AP.

The official said the extension work between October 2012 and February 2013 increased the Sewol’s weight by 187 tons and added enough room for 117 more people. The Sewol had a capacity of 921 when it sank.

As is common in South Korea, the ship’s owner paid for a safety check by the Korean Register of Shipping, which found that the Sewol passed all safety tests, including whether it could stabiliae in the event of tilting, the official said.

Prosecutors raided and seized materials and documents from the ship’s operator, as well as six companies that had conducted safety checks, revamped the ship, or loaded container boxes, a sign that investigators are likely to examine the ship’s addition of rooms and how containers were loaded.

PA