‘Mothers sat staring out to sea sobbing’
FOR the parents of the many teenagers still missing after the Sewol ferry capsized off the coast of South Korea, the wait for news – good or bad – is almost unbearable.
“My tears have dried up,” said a mother in Jindo, a town near the site of the disaster where many families have gathered.”
I am holding on to hope. I hope the government does everything to bring these kids back to their mothers.”
At the dockside in Jindo, women sat and stared out at the black, calm sea before them, quietly sobbing.
But a sense of foreboding is unavoidable among those involved in searching the waters off the southwest coast, and relatives of the missing waver between hope, despair and anger at what appears to be authorities' botched handling of the incident.
The father of one missing child could not bear to wait. He said he and 10 other parents paid 61,000 won (€43) each to hire a boat to take them to the scene, along with a local reporter and a diver.
“There was no rescue operation going on,” he said on his return to Jindo.
Survivor Koo Bonhee described how he could see the exit. For half an hour, as the doomed ferry filled with water and listed severely on its side, the crew told passengers to wait for rescuers.
With their breathing room disappearing, the 36-year-old businessman and some of the other passengers floated to an exit and swam to a nearby fishing boat.
But 290 of the 475 people aboard – many of them high school students on a class trip – were still missing after the ferry sank yesterday off the southern coast of South Korea.
Six were confirmed dead and 55 were injured.
It was still unknown why the ferry sank, and the coast guard was interviewing the captain and crew.
The Sewol, a 480-foot vessel can hold more than 900. At about 9 am yesterday, when it was three hours from Jeju, it sent a distress signal.
Passenger Kim Seong-mok said that after having breakfast, he felt the ferry tilt and then heard it crash into something.
He said an announcement told passengers to not move from their places and that he never heard another about evacuating.
He said he was certain that many people were trapped inside the ferry as water rushed in.
Koo also complained about the crew's efforts during the initial stages of the disaster, saying early misjudgments may account for the large number of missing.
In addition to the order not to evacuate immediately, Koo said many people were trapped inside by windows that were too hard to break. (Reuters)