South Korean Ferry Incident Update

Joseph Keefe
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
AFP/South Korea Coast Guard

Almost 100 ships, 18 helicopters involved in rescue; as many as 340 people from one school thought to be on board. Accident may be South Korea's biggest in 20 years.

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

Maritime Reporter February 2015 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Passenger Vessels

Long Beach Harbor Tour Season

Long Beach Port is once again giving tourists opportunity to enjoy a rare view of port operations on a free Port of Long Beach harbor tour. The organizers are

British Queen to Name New Ship

Queen Elizabeth II will christen P&O Cruises’ new flagship Britannia in Southampton, England, on March 10. She will be accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Drowning at Castaway Cay

Police are investigating the apparent drowning of an American cruise ship passenger off at Disney’s private island in the Bahamas - Castaway Cay in the Abacos.

Casualties

USCG Free Boat from Ice Near Woods Hole

A Coast Guard crew responded to a fishing vessel trapped in ice in Woods Hole Passage, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Saturday. At about 3 p.m., the crew of the fishing boat Capt.

Tug Boat Owner Jailed After Crew Man Dies

A tug boat owner was today was given an 8 month custodial sentence after his crew member died trying to reattach a tow line in a violent storm. During today’s hearing at Southampton Crown Court,

Dutch Chief Mate Sentenced for Fatal Collision

Gerardus Chapel, the chief mate at the helm of the dredger that collided with a sailing yacht at the entrance to the River Orwell in Suffolk last summer, has received a six-month sentence.

Maritime Safety

USCG Free Boat from Ice Near Woods Hole

A Coast Guard crew responded to a fishing vessel trapped in ice in Woods Hole Passage, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, Saturday. At about 3 p.m., the crew of the fishing boat Capt.

Tug Boat Owner Jailed After Crew Man Dies

A tug boat owner was today was given an 8 month custodial sentence after his crew member died trying to reattach a tow line in a violent storm. During today’s hearing at Southampton Crown Court,

ClassNK's Structural Rules for Bulkers & Tankers

The Nippon Kaiji Kyokai (ClassNK) has announced the establishment of its “Common Structural Rules for Bulk Carriers and Oil Tanker” (Rules for the Survey and

Government Update

Indian Ports to Set Sail on Corporatization

Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in Union Budget 2015 that government-run ports in India will be encouraged to corporatize and become companies under the Companies Act.

Crimea Nationalizes Cargo Port in Kerch

The Crimean State Council nationalized the Kerch-based cargo port Kamysh-Burun belonging to the Ukrainian financial-industrial group Altcom.   According to Crimean Parliament,

LA, Long Beach Ports Cooperation Approved

Federal regulators approve expanded working pact for Port of Long Beach and Port of Los Angeles to cooperate on congestion relief   The ports of Long Beach and

Ferries

Davie Building LNG-powered Ferries

Canadian shipbuilder Davie held a keel laying ceremony for MV Armand-Imbeau II, marking the beginning of the hull assembly for this first of two sisterships under

Rolls-Royce to Power Zhuhai Ferries

Rolls-Royce has been selected to supply waterjets and high speed MTU diesel engines to power two new aluminium catamaran fast ferries for Chinese ferry operator

More Bodies Found in Bangladesh Ferry Disaster

Nine bodies were retrieved from a river in central Bangladesh on Wednesday, said Harun-ur Rashid, a regional police official, bringing to 79 the number of people

Insurance

Mariners Transiting Delaware River Cautioned

The Captain of the Port (COTP) Delaware Bay is notifying mariners that Upper Delaware River lighted buoy 33 (LLNR 3875) and Upper Delaware River lighted buoy

Top Five Most Costly Insurance Claims

The TT Club has alerted the supply chain industry to a persistence of claims in a handful of loss types. The international transport, freight and logistics insurance

BWMC's Entry Into Force Imminent

Jacqueline Tan, Senior Claims Executive at the UK P&I Club, commented on the ballast water management controls coming into force:  “The coming into force of the

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Maritime Security Offshore Oil Ship Electronics Ship Repair Ship Simulators Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | 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: 0.2331 sec (4 req/sec)