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Sewol-ho ferry: search-and-rescue operation continues

Updated: 2014-05-01 AM 11:59:37 (KST)
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We start with the latest on the Sewol-ho ferry disaster
Strong currents and bad weather hampered search efforts overnight, but conditions have improved since.
The confirmed death toll now stands at 2-hundred-thirteen with eighty-nine people, mostly teenagers, still unaccounted for.
For the latest on the search operations and the ongoing investigation into the sinking, our Shin Se-min joins us from the News Center,
Se-min, fill us in with the details

Yes,…
Into now a 16th day since the ferry capsized, the families of the victims continue to wait for news on their loved ones.
As you just mentioned, the current death toll stands at 2-hundred-13, after another body was recovered early this morning at around 4 a.m.
The more favorable weather conditions near the accident site AREN'T doing much good, as high tides and fast currents are hampering the search operations.
Rescuers are not only focusing on the fourth floor, where most of the missing were initially thought to be, but also on the fifth floor lobby, where many of the recently retrieved bodies were located.
So far, of the ferry's 1-hundred-11 cabins, 44 have been checked by divers.
One female student victim who was recovered Wednesday, was actually found by a fisherman who was out to prevent the ferry's oil spill from spreading to his fish farm.
The victim was found approximately 2.4 kilometers AWAY from the accident site, making families worry that some victims' bodies may have drifted out to sea.
The sense of urgency in finding victims has never wavered.
The Coast Guard once again tried to deploy a diving bell this morning, but failed.
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.
Today's failed attempt follows another on Wednesday, where officials were forced to scrap the plans after just 20 minutes when an air supply hose broke.

In another development, the Korea Coast Guard has issued an apology to the victims' families. What prompted this, two whole weeks after the accident?

Yes, there was a press briefing in Jindo Wednesday where the Commissioner General of the Korea Coast Guard Kim Suk-kyoon , a member of the government task force handling the disaster, apologized for the pain the accident has caused the families.
He bowed his head and assumed responsibility for the disorganized, inefficient and slow rescue efforts.
He also said he'd push for clear answers in the criminal investigations.

"We truly apologize for victims of the family who are going through an inbarable sorrow and agony. We accept that initial operation efforts weren't fast and efficient enough. All members of the Korea Coast Guard will fully cooperate with the investigation."

That includes allegations against the operator of the ferry Chonghaejin Marine Company of overloading the vessel.
Two staff members have been arrested for ignoring crew member's safety warnings, on multiple occasions.
Also, a shocking revelation was made, regarding rescue operations in the early days following the ferry sinking.
A lawmaker of the parliamentary defense committee said that a report by the defense ministry showed the maritime police restricted the Navy from getting close to the accident site, and claimed that Undine, a private rescue operation company, should dive first, the company that was hired by Chonghaejin Marine.

Now, Se-min.., how about the investigation into the owner of the Chonghaejin Marine Company. What do we know now?

A special investigation team is speeding up its probe, especially on the practical owner of the ferry operator, Yoo Byung-eon .
Yoo's brother-in-law and two daughters have been notified to appear before prosecutors by Friday 10 a.m, Korea time so they now have less than 24 hours to meet that deadline.
And one of seven key figures linked to Yoo, is Song Kook-bin , the CEO of the cosmetics company called Dapanda.
Song was questioned for 14 hours Wednesday, at the Incheon District Prosecutor's Office on suspicion of corruption.
He is the second person to be questioned as a suspect, following Kim Han-sik , the president of the Chonghaejin Marine Company for any involvement in business irregularities such as embezzlement, dereliction of duty and tax evasion, in connection with Yoo.
Also, investigations have revealed that the Sewol-ho ferry had been put up for sale one month before the accident.
If the company would have sold it at its asking price Chonghaejin Marine Company would have taken a loss of roughly 5.8 million dollars.
Investigators are trying to figure out why.
That's all I have for now, but I will bring you more updates later on.


Reporter : ashin@arirang.co.kr

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