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Tuesday 30 September 2014

South Korea ferry disaster: 48 bodies found in single cabin

Published 26/04/2014 | 00:27

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A girl takes part in a candlelight vigil in Ansan, to commemorate the victims of the sunken passenger ship Sewol and to wish for the safe return of missing passengers
A girl takes part in a candlelight vigil in Ansan, to commemorate the victims of the sunken passenger ship Sewol and to wish for the safe return of missing passengers

Search teams attempting to retrieve bodies trapped in the sunken Sewol ferry found 48 dead bodies in a cabin built to accommodate 38 people on Friday, according to a South Korean Navy officer.

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The bodies, all found wearing life-jackets, were discovered as search divers scoured the ferry’s 111 rooms, Yonhap news agency reported. The team is yet to tackle 78 of the ship’s cabins.

Earlier in the rescue operation, a diver spoke of the moment he found the bodies of a boy and girl who he believes had tied themselves together by their life jackets to prevent them from drifting apart.

Divers have recovered 183 bodies so far, but 119 remain missing. It is feared they will have drowned in the dark rooms of the submerged vessel.

The discover comes as the Southern Korean Government admitted that corpses from the ship had been sent to the wrong families – errors that were sometimes only recognised when remains arrived at a funeral home.

Officials say they will now introduce changes to prevent mistakes from being repeated.

Instead, remains will now be transferred to families when there is a match using DNA testing or fingerprint or dental records, the task force said. The transfer will be temporary when a body is matched though identification or physical description, and authorities will wait for more authoritative evidence before making the transfer permanent.

Meanwhile, as part of his tour of Asia, President Barack Obama spoke at President Park Guen-hye’s residence, and offered his condolences to the loved ones of those lost on board the Sewol ferry which sank on 16 April.

More than 80 percent of the 302 dead and missing are students from a single high school in Ansan, south of Seoul.

“So many were young students with their entire lives ahead of them,” Obama said, invoking his two daughters, both close in age to many of the ferry victims.

“I can only imagine what the parents are going through at this point, the incredible heartache.”

“The Korean people draw great strength from your kindness,” President Park Guen-hye replied, making parallels between how American came together after the 9/11 attacks and the resilience of South Koreans.

Eleven crew members, including the captain, have since been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need.

While the cause of the disaster has not yet been identified, Prosecutor Yang Jung-jin of the joint investigation team said the Sewol may have capsized due to excessive veering, improper stowage of cargo, or modifications made to the ship and tidal influence.

He added that investigators will determine the cause by consulting with experts and using simulators.

Independent News Service

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