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South Korea prime minister quits over sunken ferry

By Youkyung Lee

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, April 27 2014 9:32 a.m. MDT

The ferry was carrying an estimated 3,608 tons of cargo, according to an executive of the company that loaded it. That far exceeds what the captain claimed in paperwork — 150 cars and 657 tons of other cargo, according to the coast guard — and is more than three times what an inspector who examined the vessel during a redesign last year said it could safely carry.

Yang, the prosecutor, said that the cause of the sinking could be due to excessive veering, improper stowage of cargo, modifications made to the ship and tidal influence. He said investigators would determine the cause by consulting with experts and using simulations.

Prosecutors have also seized documents from Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center and Jeju Vessel Traffic Services Center, Yang said, and are analyzing communication messages, vessel tracking data and security camera recordings and others. The centers communicated with Sewol crew members as the ship listed and filled with water. The communications revealed confusion and indecision on the evacuation.

Despite bad weather, dozens of divers continued underwater searches for the missing on Sunday, said Ko Myung-seok, a spokesman for the emergency task force. One body was found, bringing the confirmed death toll to 188.

Officials said Saturday that divers had reached two large sleeping units in the ferry where many of the lost may lie dead. Large objects that toppled when the vessel tipped over and sank are believed to be keeping divers from reaching bodies in at least one of the two rooms.

Fifty students from Danwon High School in Ansan, a city near Seoul, were booked into one of the rooms. Danwon students make up more than 80 percent of the dead and missing; they had been on their way to the southern tourist island of Jeju.

"I just want to find my son's corpse. I want to see him one last time and hold a funeral for him," said Lim Hee-bin, as he exhaled cigarette smoke near his tent at Paengmok port in Jindo. "But the government search operation is too slow. It's total nonsense."

Lim said his son, Lim Hyun-jin, called him as the ship sank but the call was cut off. His son also sent him blurry and shaky photos showing his friends wearing orange life jackets and seated in a cabin.

"There are the last photos he sent me," Lim said. "These show they were in a dangerous situation."

Lee reported from Mokpo, South Korea. Associated Press writers Jung-yoon Choi, Leon Drouin-Keith and Foster Klug in Seoul contributed to this report.

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