A mother's wail for her missing child pierced the morning silence in the Korean port of Paengmok yesterday as the Sewol ferry was raised from its watery grave, three years after sinking with the loss of more than 300 lives.
Most of the 304 victims of the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16, 2014, were teenage school children from the Danwon High School in Ansan, near the capital, Seoul. Many died after being told to wait in their cabins instead of evacuating. Nine bodies were never found.
"I really miss you, my son. I hope he gets out of the freezing water and meets me here," the mother of Yang Seung-jin, a teacher, told the 'Korean Herald' as she wept on the island of Jindo, near where the ship went down.
Anxious families gathered on a boat to oversee the raising of the ship, while others watched from the top of a hill onshore.
The 145 metre-long ferry, trapped 40 metres under water for 1,073 days, began to break the surface seven hours after a Chinese consortium began to use two salvage barges to raise it in a $72m (€66.7m) operation.
Some onlookers broke down as the corroded Sewol emerged. "I shouted when I saw the ferry revealed above the water, thinking that my child can finally return home," said Lee Keum-hee, the mother of missing student victim Cho Eun-hwa.
The ferry will be moved onto a semi-submersible ship and should arrive at the Mokpo Port in the south of the Korean peninsula in two weeks. Officials hope to find the reason why it sank and recover the bodies.