300 Missing After Korean Ferry Capsizes

Posted by George Backwell
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Wreck symbol: file image CCL

Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years.

The ferry was carrying 459 people, of whom 164 have been rescued, coastguard officials said.

It was not immediately clear why the Sewol ferry listed heavily on to its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast, but some survivors spoke of what appeared to be an impact prior to the accident.

"It was fine. Then the ship went 'boom' and there was a noise of cargo falling," said Cha Eun-ok, who said she was on the deck of the ferry taking photographs at the time.

"The on-board announcement told people to stay put ... people who stayed are trapped," she said in Jindo, the nearest town to the scene of the accident.

Survivors there huddled on the floor of a gymnasium, wrapped in blankets and receiving medical aid. One woman lay on a bed shaking uncontrollably. A man across the room wailed loudly as he spoke on his mobile phone.

Furious relatives of the missing threw water at journalists trying to speak to survivors and at a local politician who had arrived at the makeshift clinic.

Most of the passengers on board the ferry appeared to have been teenagers and their teachers from a high school in Seoul who were on a field trip to Jeju island, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the Korean peninsula.

CONFUSION OVER NUMBER MISSING

An official from the Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb, had earlier said all of its 338 students and teachers had been rescued. But that could not be confirmed by the coastguard or other officials involved in the rescue.

The school official asked not to be identified.

The Ministry of Security and Public Administration earlier reported that 368 people had been rescued and that about 100 were missing.

But it later described those figures as a miscalculation, turning what had at first appeared to be a largely successful rescue operation into potentially a major disaster.

There was also confusion about the total number of passengers on board, as authorities revised the figure down from 477, saying some had been double counted. It added to growing frustration and anger among families of the passengers.

Witnesses said many people were likely to be trapped inside the vessel.

According to a coast guard official in Jindo, the waters where the ferry capsized have some of the strongest tides of any off South Korea's coast, meaning divers were prevented from entering the mostly submerged ship for several hours.

"LOUD IMPACT"

The ferry began to list badly about 20 km (12 miles) off the southwest coast as it headed for Jeju.

A member of the crew of a local government ship involved in the rescue, who said he had spoken to members of the sunken ferry's crew, said the area was free of reefs or rocks and the cause was likely to be some sort of malfunction on the vessel.

There were reports of the ferry having veered off its course, but coordinates of the site of the accident provided by port authorities indicated it was not far off the regular shipping lane.

Several survivors spoke of hearing a "loud impact" before the ship started listing and rolling on its side.

Within a couple of hours, the Sewol was lying on its port side. Soon after, it had completely turned over, with only the forward part of its white and blue hull showing above the water.

Coastguard vessels and fishing boats scrambled to the rescue with television footage showing rescuers pulling passengers in life vests out of the water as their boats bobbed beside the ferry's hull.

Other passengers were winched to safety by helicopters.

The ferry left from the port of Incheon, about 30 km (20 miles) west of Seoul, late on Tuesday.

It sent a distress signal early on Wednesday, the coastguard said, triggering a rescue operation that involved almost 100 coastguard and navy vessels and fishing boats, as well as 18 helicopters.

A U.S. navy ship was at the scene to help, the U.S. Seventh Fleet said, adding it was ready to offer more assistance.

The area of the accident was clear of fog, unlike further north up the coast, which had been shrouded in heavy fog that led to the cancellation of many ferry services.

The coastguard said one person was found dead inside the sinking ferry. An official from the Mokpo Hankook hospital on the mainland said another person died soon after arriving at its emergency ward. That person was identified as one of the students on the school trip.

Four people were confirmed dead in total.

The ship has a capacity of about 900 people, an overall length of 146 metres (480 feet) and it weighs 6,586 gross tonnes. Shipping records show it was built in Japan in 1994.

In 1993, the Seohae ferry sank, and 292 of the 362 passengers on board perished.

 

(By Narae Kim; Additional reporting by Ju-Min Park, Choonsik Yoo, Meeyoung Cho and James Pearson in SEOUL; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mike Collett-White)

 

Maritime Today


The Maritime Industry's original and most viewed E-News Service

Maritime Reporter July 2016 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

People & Company News

DP World's H1 Volumes Rise

Ports operator DP World reported on Tuesday first-half 2016 gross container volumes up 1.2 percent on a like-for-like basis and up 2.5 percent on a reported basis.

Samil PwC Okays Hyundai's Management Improvement Plan

Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) is notified by Samil PwC, a local member of the global accounting firm PwC, that its 3.5 trillion won worth management improvement

Volvo Penta Names Brown Commercial Marine Sales Director

Dave Brown has joined Volvo Penta of the Americas as director of commercial marine sales.   In this new position, Brown will provide strategic and administrative

Casualties

Sunken Barge Impedes Waterway Traffic Near Galveston

A barge sank east of the Galveston Causeway railroad bridge Tuesday, causing the U.S. Coast Guard to issue a safety zone and temporarily restrict traffic on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

New Details Emerge on Loss of USS Indianapolis

A Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) historian has recently uncovered information that sheds new light on the loss of the World War II cruiser USS Indianapolis (CA 35).

Piracy Drops to 21-year low - IMB

Piracy and armed robbery at sea has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, despite a surge in kidnappings off West Africa, according to a new report from the International

Maritime Safety

China Asks U.S. to Support Resumption of Talks with Philippines

China's foreign minister has asked the U.S. secretary of state John Kerry to support the resumption of talks between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea,

New Container Facility at Krishnapatnam Port

Krishnapatnam Port, India's largest all-weather; deep water port on the east-coast of India has inaugurated CONCOR’s - Port Side Container facility – a Government of India undertaking.

Sunken Barge Impedes Waterway Traffic Near Galveston

A barge sank east of the Galveston Causeway railroad bridge Tuesday, causing the U.S. Coast Guard to issue a safety zone and temporarily restrict traffic on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Ferries

New Ferry MV Woods Hole Delivered

The newly built ferry M/V Woods Hole has been delivered to serve Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.   Built by Conrad Industries of Morgan City, La.

Wärtsilä Environmental Efficiency for Hybrid UK Ferry

A new ferry being built at the Cemre shipyard in Turkey for UK operator Wightlink will feature a comprehensive range of modern Wärtsilä equipment and systems to

Finland's Wartsila Sticks to 2016 Outlook

Finnish ship engine and power plant maker Wartsila reported weaker-than-expected quarterly profit and order intake on Wednesday. Wartsila cited tight competition

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Security Maritime Standards Offshore Oil Pod Propulsion Port Authority Salvage Ship Repair Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1120 sec (9 req/sec)