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Sewol-ho ferry tragedy: Day 15

Updated: 2014-04-29 22:00:46 (KST)
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It's been more than two weeks since the tragic Sewol-ho ferry sunk off Korea's southwestern coast of Jin-do Island, and the death toll has risen to 2-hundred-05, with 97 still missing and presumed dead.
For the latest, we connect to Connie Kim at the news center.
Connie, the weather has given rescue divers trouble in recent days, but they seemed to have made some progress today?

Well, the weather conditions in Jindo seem to have improved as the clouds have cleared out and the waves are calmer than yesterday.
However, it's a different story altogether under the surface of the water.
The currents are stronger, with speeds of up to 2.4 meters per second.
To help divers in this hostile environment, the diving bell is currently being prepared for underwater deployment, which is now scheduled to be deployed at around two hours time.
It was scheduled to be deployed earlier this afternoon, but strong currents have delayed this process.
A diving bell is a chamber that can be used as a base for divers, enabling them to stay underwater for about an hour without having to return to the surface.
Sixteen more bodies were recovered today, pushing the death toll over 2-hundred, with 97 still unaccounted for.
Thirteen of them were found in the lobby of the fifth floor, with the rest retrieved from the left side of the cabins on the fourth floor.
Originally the cabins on the right side of the vessel on the third and fourth floor were a priority, but operations expanded to the fifth floor Tuesday, working on the assumption that people may have run upstairs from the fourth floor, when the water began rushing in.
The bodies are yet to be identified, but most are presumed to be Danwon High School students.
So far, more than half of the 64 cabins where the missing passengers were presumed to have been have been searched.
Now, the first phase of rescue operations is expected to come to a close by the middle of next month.

And what about the ongoing criminal investigation? The public is still horrified with what looks to be criminal negligence.

That's right, a lot of attention is being put on the Sewol-ho crew members who abandoned ship.
The cases of the four ferry mates who have been arrested, including the vessel's first mate known by his last name Kang, will be sent to prosecution.
Kang reportedly called his employer, Chonghaejin Marine Company when the vessel was listing, time he should have spent trying to save the ill-fated ferry and its passengers.
Kang was also the one responsible for managing the amount of ballast water on the vessel, which is believed to be one of the factors that caused the ferry to capsize.
Criticism against the crew, who managed to evacuate, is likely to expand as phone logs show that the crew, including Captain Lee Joon-seok , called Chonghaejin Marine Company seven times prior to their escape, from 9:01 to 9:37, just before final communication was made with the control tower on Jin-do Island at 9:39 a.m.
Also this morning, the president of the Chonghaejin Marine Company Kim Han-sik was summoned for the first time.
He's being looked at for any links between Yoo Byung-eon , the practical owner of the ferry operator.
Investigations are being conducted to determine whether Kim was involved in any business irregularities, such as embezzlement and tax evasion in connection with Yoo.

And there are suspicions against the trade group representing the nation's shipping industry.

An arrest warrant has been issued for two members of the Korea Shipping Association who have been under speculation of destroying evidence in relation to the case.
They are suspected of deleting data on their computers or switching PCs.
Arrest warrants had been requested against three members of the association but one of them has been dismissed.

And apparently there are even more crew members than previously thought? That expands the number of people who may be held responsible?

You're right Sean.
It has been two weeks since the Sewol-ho ferry sunk, but it seems the joint investigation headquarters doesn't have the exacnt number of crew members who were on board the vessel.
Originally 29 were listed to have been on board, with 20 known to have survived and nine unaccounted for.
However, according to Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency, three additional crew members were on board the vessel all part-time workers for the ferry while YTN reported four.
The headquarters in Jindo did not respond to why the miscount was made saying the Coast Guard in Incheon should confirm exact numbers.
With such confusion taking place some say there may be even more crew members not taken into count.


Reporter : connie1223@arirang.co.kr

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