Sunday 20 April 2014

Far eastern ferry disasters

The agony goes on for those with loved ones aboard the South Korean ferry, Sewol, that capsized off the island of Jindo three days ago. About 200 ships, 34 aircraft and 600 divers have been taking part in the search operation, but conditions are difficult, and so far only 26 bodies have been recovered.

The official death toll is still only 58, but another 244 people are missing, and it will be regarded as a miracle if any are found alive. 174 are known to have survived. About 350 of those on board were from a school in Seoul and were on their way to the holiday island of Jeju.

The 69 year old captain and two other crew members have been arrested, including the third mate, Park Hyun-kul, who he had left in charge of the ship. She has been at sea for just one year, and has never before navigated the complex cluster of islands where the ship went down.

Coastguards have pointed to a sharp turn that she made as the cause of the disaster. The captain has also been heavily criticised for delaying an evacuation of the ship.

The deadliest peace time maritime disaster ever came just before Christmas 1987 when the Philippines ferry, Dona Paz, collided with a tanker, caught fire and sank. Up to 4,375 people perished.

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