death toll from the Sewol ferry disaster now stands at 28, though, with
about 270 people still missing, it's expected to rise dramatically.
Divers briefly breached the ship's hull on Friday but were forced to
turn back because of bad weather.
guide line that links the sunken ship and the rescue vessel has been
cut off," the South Korean Coast Guard said. "Still, the entrance into
the ship is open, and we plan to resume operation to enter the ship."
are investigating whether a third mate's decision to order a sharp turn
caused the boat to capsize. The abrupt turn took place at about 8:49
am, just ten minutes before the ferry's first distress call, though
officials cautioned they don't yet know if the turn was made voluntarily
Transcripts from the boat, obtained by the Associated Press,
show the captain's order to abandon ship came roughly 30 minutes after
an official at the Jeju Vessel Traffic Services Center told the boat to
prepare the boat for evacuation. From the AP:
the recording of the conversation, the Sewol crewmember says:
"Currently the body of the ship has listed to the left. The containers
have listed as well."
Jeju VTS officer responds: "OK. Any loss of human life or injuries?"
The ship's answer is: "It's impossible to check right now. The body of
the ship has tilted, and it's impossible to move."
The VTS officer then says "Yes, OK. Please wear life jackets and prepare as the people might have to abandon ship."
"It's hard for people to move," replies the crew member on the radio.
Yong-seok, a helmsman on the ferry, told the AP that the first
instructions from the captain were for passengers to put on life jackets
and stay where they were, Oh said.
30 minutes later, the captain finally gave the order to evacuate, Oh
said, adding that he wasn't sure in the confusion and chaos on the
bridge if the order was relayed to the passengers. Several survivors
told the AP that they never heard any evacuation orders.
Joon-Seok, the captain, has made one brief statement since the
incident: "I am really sorry and deeply ashamed," Lee said in a video.
"I don't know what to say."
Meanwhile, distraught family members awaiting word about their missing loved ones described their anguish to reporters.
"I want to jump into the water with them," Park Geum-san, 59, the great-aunt of a missing student, told the Associated Press. "My loved one is under the water and it's raining. Anger is not enough."
Family members of passengers gathered in a gym in Jindo, where they await updates about the disaster.
South Korea ferry disaster: Fake survivor posts add to nation's anguish
(CNN) -- Disgust, anger and shock greeted official statements from South Korean authorities that texts and social media posts from survivors trapped inside the stricken ferry had been faked.
Messages such as "I am still alive... in the cafeteria please help me my battery is running out please believe me," and "My phone is not working I am inside the boat I can't see anything" were spreading on social media on Thursday -- as late as over 24 hours after the incident.
The messages gave extra substance to hope at least some of the hundreds of missing passengers were alive and awaiting rescue.
News and rumors of the texts circulated around families of the missing. The purported texts contained so much detail, they made relatives "surprised and excited," one mother said earlier this week.
The texts also fueled a tense atmosphere at Jindo -- where distraught families viewed them as proof several passengers were alive. This led to remonstrations and the hurling of objects at authorities, who relatives accused of not doing enough to save their children.
"Please stop such actions that are causing pain to the families of missing passengers. The malicious distributors of these texts will be strictly dealt with."
South Korea has been gripped by this tragedy and the pronouncement of these fake social posts added to the collective anguish -- especially as social media has been playing a crucial role in relaying information from the site.
Police successfully put out a call on social media to find any relatives of a rescued six-year-old girl who had been on board with her parents and older brother.
The revelations of fake posts have added to a growing sense of public confusion, mistrust and escalating frustration -- particularly among the passengers' relatives -- over the handling of the search and rescue operations, media coverage and official releases of information.
Across the country, scheduled festivals, concerts and school field trips are among the events that have been canceled.
TV networks have been carrying the search virtually non-stop since the incident.
All news and top searched keywords on the main Internet portals remain linked to the ship, while wishes for good news are flooding social media.
Ever since the Titanic
sank on its maiden voyage, carrying its captain and many of the
passengers with it, the notion that the captain goes down with his ship
has been ingrained in popular culture.
But now, for the second time in just over two years, a sea captain — first in Italy and now in South Korea — has been among the first to flee a sinking vessel, placing his own life ahead of those of his terrified passengers.
much-publicized photo from the latest accident shows the Korean captain
being helped off his own ship, the Sewol, stepping off the deck to
safety even as scores of his ferry passengers remained below where
survivors believe they became trapped by rushing water and debris.
behavior has earned the captain, Lee Jun-seok, 69, the nickname the
“evil of the Sewol” among bloggers in South Korea. It also landed him in
experts called the abandonment shocking — violating a proud
international (and South Korean) tradition of stewardship based at least
as much on accepted codes of behavior as by law.
guy’s an embarrassment to anybody who’s ever had command at sea,” said
John B. Padgett III, a retired United States Navy rear admiral and
former submarine captain.
sentiments were echoed by Capt. William H. Doherty, who has commanded
Navy and merchant ships and managed safety operations at a major cruise
line. He called Mr. Lee’s decision to leave his 447 passengers “a
disgrace,” and likened it to the desertion of the stricken Costa
Concordia cruise ship off the Italian coast in 2012. “You can’t take
responsibility, or say you do, for nearly 500 souls, and then be the
first in the lifeboat,” he said.
courts in the United States have long viewed captains as having an
obligation to protect their passengers and ships, but the cases in South
Korea and Italy seem likely to test the notion of criminal liability in
captain of the Italian ship, Francesco Schettino, is on trial on
manslaughter charges after the sinking of his ship left more than 30
The death toll in the South Korean accident stood at 36 as of late Saturday, with 266 missing.
countries do not explicitly state that a captain must be the last
person to leave a distressed ship, experts say, giving captains the
leeway to board lifeboats or nearby ships if they can better command an
evacuation from there. South Korea’s law, however, appears to be
explicit, allowing the authorities to arrest Mr. Lee for abandoning the
boat and its passengers in a time of crisis. An international maritime
treaty known as the Safety of Life at Sea — first adopted in 1914 after
the Titanic disaster — makes a ship’s captain responsible for the safety
of his vessel and everyone on board. A later version of the treaty said
that passengers should be able to evacuate within 30 minutes of a
Sewol took two and a half hours to sink, but many survivors have
reported that the crew told passengers it was safer to stay put inside
the ship, likely dooming them. (The captain says he later issued
instructions for passengers to evacuate the ship, but it remains unclear
if that was conveyed to passengers.)
United States Navy’s rules are more explicit than ones for commercial
ships. Dave Werner, Naval History and Heritage Command spokesman, said
that Navy rules dating to 1814 require a captain to remain with a
stricken ship as long as possible and salvage as much of it as he can.
Werner cited current regulations that state, “If it becomes necessary
to abandon the ship, the commanding officer should be the last person to
The list of military and commercial ship captains who refused to abandon ship is a long one.
Titanic’s captain, E. J. Smith, was probably steaming too fast when the
giant ship hit an iceberg, but he later won praise for helping to save
more than 700 lives. He insisted that women and children be evacuated
first, and he stayed near the bridge as the ship went down.
the Andrea Doria collided with another vessel off Nantucket in 1956,
the captain, Piero Calamai, pledged to remain on his own on the listing
ship after the passengers were evacuated to try to save it. He agreed to
abandon the vessel only when other officers refused to leave without
the Navy’s first Cold War spy submarine, the Cochino, caught fire and
was about to sink in the Barents Sea not far from Russia in 1949, the
captain, Cmdr. Rafael C. Benitez, refused to abandon the surfaced
submarine even after all his men had run across a wooden plank
connecting them to another vessel heaving in the rough seas.
Benitez, who was hoping to save the Cochino, crossed the plank to
safety only when the men on the other vessel yelled that his sub was
sinking fast. This sense of a captain’s duty was also part of the
narrative in the crash of US Airways Flight 1549, which was forced to
ditch in the Hudson River after losing power in both engines after it
struck birds. After landing the plane on the water, Capt. Chesley B.
Sullenberger III twice checked the sinking cabin to make sure no one was
left before leaving himself.
And sometimes the heroes are fellow passengers.
1991, a 500-foot-long Greek-owned cruise ship called the Oceanos
flooded off the coast of South Africa in 30-foot swells after an engine
explosion. Instead of evacuating the 571 people on board, the captain
and his crew left, claiming later that they went to seek help.
to news accounts at the time, a magician who had been on board to
provide entertainment radioed for help and coordinated the rescue effort
from the bridge. The magician, Robin Bolton, was among the last people
to leave the ship along with members of the South African Navy who were
dropped aboard to search for any stragglers.
The Sewol had its own heroes and heroines.
Park Ho-jin, 16, found a 6-year-old girl standing alone and wet on the
side of the ship as it was sliding slowly into the water. She had been
left there by her older brother who went back into the ship to hunt for
their mother. Mr. Park swept the child into his arms and delivered her
to rescuers who had pulled a boat alongside the ship. Mr. Park made it
onto a later rescue boat.
high school student who survived reported that a crew member named Park
Ji-young, 22, had helped teenagers to get life jackets and escape by
urging them to jump into the frigid waters of the Yellow Sea where
rescue boats were waiting. She stayed behind without a life jacket for
herself despite the youngsters’ entreaties to jump with them. “After
saving you, I will get out,” she said. “The crew goes out last.”
She was later found dead, floating in the sea.
Correction: April 19, 2014
An earlier version of this article misspelled the given name and
surname of the captain of the Andrea Doria. He was Piero Calamai, not
South Korea — The captain and two crew members of a ferry that
capsized, leaving more than 270 people — most of them students —
missing, were arrested early Saturday, the authorities said.
captain, Lee Jun-seok, 69, was charged with abandoning the boat and its
passengers at a time of crisis, among other counts, according to
prosecutors. Mr. Lee as well as the third mate, a 26-year-old woman who
the authorities said was steering the ship at the time of accident on
Wednesday, and another crew member were taken to jail with their hands
cuffed after a judge approved their arrest warrants. The crew members
also faced numerous charges.
bow before the people and grieved families and apologize,” Mr. Lee told
reporters as he was led to jail. He added that he “partly” accepted the
charges against him.
Not long after the arrests, officials said that divers had discovered three bodies inside the submerged vessel.
hope dwindled that any of the 236 missing students would be found
alive, their high school was stunned Friday by more tragic news: the
death of its vice principal in what was suspected to be a suicide.
vice principal, Kang Min-kyu, 52, of Danwon High School, who survived
the ferry accident, was found hanging from a tree near a gymnasium where
families of the missing had gathered. The police suspected Mr. Kang had
too much, being alive alone while more than 200 of my students are
missing,” he wrote in a note found in his wallet, according to the
police. “Please place all the blame on me because I was in charge of the
trip. Please cremate my body and scatter the ashes where the ship sank.
Perhaps I should be a teacher for those missing children in the other
Friday, investigators said that Mr. Lee, the ship’s captain, who has
been criticized for being among the first to leave the sinking ship, was
not at the steering house when the ferry, the Sewol, tilted and began
sinking on Wednesday morning.
“He temporarily left the steering command to his third shipmate,” said Park Jae-uk, a senior investigator.
captain returned to the bridge as soon as the ship began tilting, Mr.
Park said. The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the third
mate had a year of experience steering ships, five months of it on the
arrests came after more potential clues emerged as to how the ferry’s
trip to the resort island of Jeju, which began Tuesday night in Incheon,
a port west of Seoul, turned into one of South Korea’s worst disasters
in decades. As of Saturday evening, 32 deaths had been confirmed.
confirmed on Friday that they were investigating whether the ship,
under the third mate’s command, made too sharp a turn on a curve in the
sea route. They have raised the possibility that the vehicles and other
heavy cargo on the ferry might not have been properly secured, in which
case they could have slid to one side when the turn was made, causing
the ship to tilt.
Friday, prosecutors raided the offices of the ship’s operator, the
Cheonghaejin Marine Company, and a shipyard to investigate allegations
that Cheonghaejin added more cabin rooms, probably making the ship
top-heavy, to accommodate more passengers after buying the 20-year-old
ferry from Japan in 2012. Although the Sewol passed balancing and other
safety tests, officials were looking into whether the suspected
structural change contributed to the accident.
were also investigating widespread accounts that the crew had urged
passengers to stay in their quarters even as the ship was sinking,
instructions that may have resulted in many people being trapped.
Lee said that his ship broadcast instructions for passengers to stay
put inside “because rescue boats had not arrived yet.” He said that he
eventually advised passengers to evacuate, but he did not clarify when.
He also did not say whether his evacuation order was properly delivered
to passengers amid the chaos.
Lee also said that he was visiting his bedroom cabin briefly when the
accident happened. He denied he was intoxicated at the time.
captain said the ship began showing signs of trouble at 8:50 a.m.
Wednesday. The ship sent its first distress signal eight minutes later.
third mate, who was in charge at the bridge while Mr. Lee was away, did
not respond to reporters’ questions on Saturday as she was led out of
the courtroom. But a 55-year-old coxswain, the third crew member
arrested, said that the ship was attempting a usual turn on the shipping
route when it swerved more rapidly than expected.
Friday evening, hundreds of students held a candlelight vigil for Mr.
Kang, the vice principal, on the school grounds in Ansan, a city south
of Seoul. One student held a message for the missing students that said:
“We are waiting. Please come back alive.”
Thursday evening, families threw water bottles at fellow teachers who
had visited the gymnasium and knelt before the families in apology. Mr.
Kang was not there, and his colleagues had asked the police to find him.
must have felt a terrible sense of guilt,” said Whang Sang-min, a
professor of psychology at Yonsei University in Seoul. “He must have
suffered unbearable regrets for not going against the ship’s instruction
and immediately evacuating his students.”
two days of futile efforts, South Korean divers on Friday managed to
enter the capsized ferry where many of the 273 missing people were
feared to have been trapped when the ship sank. But officials warned
Friday that the work would be painstaking and difficult.
of the leaders of the diving effort, Hwang Dae-sik, said Friday that
underwater visibility at the site was so poor and currents so rapid that
the work was “like moving against the wind of a typhoon while barely
being able to see your palm.” Currents were moving diagonally across the
hull, creating swirls and making it tricky for divers to enter the
ship, he said.
have been trying to put ropes into the ship so that we can use them as
guides as we crawl into the ship in the darkness and hopefully bring out
missing people,” Mr. Hwang, a senior official with the Maritime Rescue
and Salvage Association, said in an interview.
Using such ropes, two divers managed to enter the ship’s cargo deck but returned without finding anyone, officials said.
the slow pace of the work and the days that have passed since the
sinking, the news that the divers had entered the ship raised hope among
hundreds of parents who have been waiting on this nearby island that
survivors might yet be found.
were also using high-pressure hoses to pump oxygen into the ship, which
by Friday was completely underwater, a tiny tip of its hull
occasionally appearing between the waves. The rescuers were hoping that
the oxygen would reach people who might yet be alive in air pockets
within the submerged vessel.
cranes arrived on the scene on Friday as officials prepared for the
eventual salvaging of the vessel. But experts said it would take days,
if not weeks, to complete the difficult task of raising the ship.
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