Thursday 8 December 2016

South Korea to raise ferry Sewol that sank in disaster that killed over 300

Published 22/04/2015 | 07:42

Public safety and security minister Park In-yong, right, and oceans and fisheries minister Yoo Ki-june reveal plans to salvage the Sewol (AP)
Public safety and security minister Park In-yong, right, and oceans and fisheries minister Yoo Ki-june reveal plans to salvage the Sewol (AP)

South Korea has approved plans to salvage a ferry that sank in a disaster that killed more than 300 people.

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Raising the ferry Sewol is one of demands made by bereaved families, who hope that might help reveal details about the cause of the sinking last year and find bodies of the nine people still missing.

But critics are sceptical that salvaging the ship will provide new revelations.

The bodies of 295 people have already been recovered. Most were high school pupils who were on a trip to a southern resort island.

Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster react as they throw flowers to pay tribute to the victims of the 16 April 2014 sinking, at sea off Jindo Island, in the southwestern province of South Jeolla, 15 April 2015. REUTERS/Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool
Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster react as they throw flowers to pay tribute to the victims of the 16 April 2014 sinking, at sea off Jindo Island, in the southwestern province of South Jeolla, 15 April 2015. REUTERS/Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool
Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry off the coast near the Jindo Island southwestern province of South Jeolla, 15 April 2015. REUTERS/Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool
Family members of victims of the sinking of the ferry Sewol toss flowers and pray as they visit the site where the ferry sank off Jindo, South Korea on the eve of the first anniversary of the disaster, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool Photo via AP)
Relatives of victims of the sinking of the ferry Sewol weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site where the ferry sank off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (Ed Jones/Pool Photo via AP)
A relative of a victim of the ferry Sewol disaster holds a flower as he looks out at the water during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry, off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (Ed Jones/Pool Photo via AP)
A relative of victims of the sinking of the ferry Sewol weeps as she and others stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site where the ferry sank off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (Ed Jones/Pool Photo via AP)
Relatives of victims of the sinking of the ferry Sewol weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site where the ferry sank off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo Wednesday, April 15, 2015. (Ed Jones/Pool Photo via AP)
A relative of a victim of the Sewol ferry disaster sits on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry, off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo April 15, 2015. REUTERS / POOL / Ed Jones
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, bottom center, arrives to offer her condolences to the bereaved relatives of the victims of the sinking of the ferry Sewol at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 16, 2015. (Park Chul-hong/Yonhap via AP ) KOREA OUT
A woman wipes her tears outside a group memorial altar for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol, in Ansan, South Korea, Thursday, April 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaks during her visit to a port in Jindo on the occasion of the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/News1
South Korean President Park Geun-hye (C) speaks during her visit to a port in Jindo on the occasion of the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/News1
South Korean President Park Geun-hye (3rd L) visits a port in Jindo during the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Yonhap
South Korean President Park Geun-hye (2nd R) visits a port in Jindo during the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Yonhap
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, front right, looks at foods and beverages dedicated for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol as she arrives to offer her condolences to the bereaved relatives of the victims at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 16, 2015. (Lee Jeong-ryong/Yonhap via AP)
A mourner holding a flower stands in a line at the official memorial altar for the victims of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers on the occasion of the first anniversary, in Ansan April 16, 2015. The banner reads "Salvage the sunken ferry Sewol". REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Mourners stand in a line at the official memorial altar for the victims of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers on the occasion of the first anniversary, in Ansan April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Students holding umbrellas visit the official memorial altar for the victims of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers on the occasion of the first anniversary, in Ansan April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean President Park Geun-hye's name (bottom C) is seen on a chair as politicians take their seats, before a memorial ceremony at the official memorial altar for the victims in Ansan, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
South Korean President Park Geun-hye's name (bottom C) is seen on a chair, before a memorial ceremony at the official memorial altar for the victims in Ansan, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A mourner waits for a memorial ceremony at the official memorial altar for the victims in Ansan on the occasion of the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A journalist prepares for a report as mourners stand in a line at the official memorial altar for the victims in Ansan on the occasion of the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A mourner looks at pictures of victims from the sunken ferry Sewol at the official memorial altar for the victims in Ansan on the occasion of the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
A man talks on the phone in front of a giant banner bearing the names of victims onboard sunken ferry Sewol at the official memorial altar for the victims, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the ferry disaster that killed more than 300 passengers, in Ansan April 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Public safety and security minister Park In-yong said the government endorsed a request by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries to hoist the ship from the sea bed off the country's south-west coast.

President Park Geun-hye promised to salvage the ship during a ceremony last week marking the first anniversary of the disaster.

Read more: One year on: Tears and anger as relatives mourn 300 victims of South Korean ferry tragedy

Her government had faced criticism from relatives of the victims and their supporters who say officials were reluctant to start work to lift the ship due to expected high costs.

In the first several months after the sinking, relatives had opposed raising the ship because they worried that would damage the bodies of those believed to be trapped inside the submerged ship or allow them to be swept away.

Salvaging the ship is estimated to cost £61-92 million and take as long as 18 months, according to the oceans ministry.

The ministry said the government would first select a company to lift the Sewol in two months before formulating detailed salvaging plans in the following months.

Read more: South Korea to pay about €352,000 for each student killed in ferry disaster

Oceans Minister Yoo Ki-june said some of the salvage work, such as removing remaining oil from the sunken ship and deploying barges where workers can stay near the site, are expected to start as early as September.

A year after the sinking, there is lingering public anger over the government's handling of the disaster, with the start of an investigation by a special committee still stalled over the issue of personnel make-up. Violence erupted on Saturday at a Seoul rally led by bereaved families and their supporters, leaving dozens of people injured.

In the aftermath of the accident, authorities arrested about 140 people, including crew members and ferry company employees. They blamed overloading of cargo, improper storage, botched rescue efforts and other negligence for the incident, but critics say higher-level officials have not been held accountable.

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