Saturday 21 April 2018

Doomed South Korea ship 'didn't turn sharply'

Searchers and divers look for people believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol near Jindo on the southern coast of South Korea (AP)
Searchers and divers look for people believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol near Jindo on the southern coast of South Korea (AP)

New evidence shows that the sunken South Korean ferry did not make a sharp turn shortly before the disaster, but changed course much more gradually, it has emerged.

Full data from the Sewol's automatic identification system, an on-board transponder used for tracking, showed that the ship in fact made a J-shaped turn before listing heavily and ultimately sinking last week, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing.

A ministry of ocean and fisheries official said on Friday that the vessel had taken a sharp turn, but another official said today the AIS data had been incomplete and the true path of the ship became clear when the information was fully restored.

The cause of the disaster is not yet known. The third mate, who has been arrested, was steering at the time of the accident, in a challenging area where she had not steered before, and the captain said he was not on the bridge at the time.

Authorities have not named her, though a colleague identified her as Park Han-gyeol.

Meanwhile, more than 100 bodies have been retieved from the wreckage of the ferry.

Part of South Korean passenger ship
Part of South Korean passenger ship "Sewol" that has been sinking is seen as South Korean maritime policemen search for passengers in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014. More than 100 people remained missing on Wednesday after a South Korean ferry with 477 people aboard capsized off the country's southwest coast, Yonhap news agency said. REUTERS/Hyung Min-woo/Yonhap
Part of South Korean passenger ship "Sewol" that has been sinking is seen as South Korean maritime policemen search for passengers in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014. More than 100 people remained missing on Wednesday after a South Korean ferry with 477 people aboard capsized off the country's southwest coast, Yonhap news agency said. REUTERS/Hyung Min-woo/Yonhap
Ambulances wait for rescued passengers from a ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, at a port in Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. More than 100 people were still unaccounted Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 476, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast, killing at least two and injuring 14, officials said. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Park Chul-heung)
Rescued passengers are escorted by members of a rescue team upon their arrival at a port in Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. More than 100 people were still unaccounted Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 476, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast, killing at least two and injuring 14, officials said. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Park Chul-heung)
A girl rescued by South Korean maritime policemen from a sinking ship "Sewol" in the sea off Jindo, is treated at a port in Jindo April 16, 2014. More than 100 people remained missing on Wednesday after a South Korean ferry with 477 people aboard capsized off the country's southwest coast, Yonhap news agency said. REUTERS/Hyung Min-woo/Yonhap
Rescued passengers from a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, are escorted by rescue teams on their arrival at a port in Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. More than 100 people were still unaccounted Wednesday several hours after the ferry carrying 476, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Park Chul-heung)
South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue passengers from the ship in water off the southern coast in South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. A government office said the passenger ship carrying about 470 people have sent a distress call off the southern coast after it began tittering to one side. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue passengers from the ship in water off the southern coast in South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. The South Korean passenger ship carrying more than 470 people, including many high school students, is sinking off the country's southern coast Wednesday after sending a distress call, officials said. There are no immediate reports of causalities. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
South Korean coast guard officers try to rescue passengers from ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Dozens of boats, helicopters and divers scrambled Wednesday to rescue more than 470 people, including 325 high school students on a school trip, after the ferry sank off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/Hyung Min-woo, Yonhap)
Rescued passengers wrapped in blankets, who were on a sinking ferry "Sewol" in the sea off Jindo, gather at a port in Seogeochado April 16, 2014. More than 100 people remained missing on Wednesday after a South Korean ferry with 477 people aboard capsized off the country's southwest coast, Yonhap news agency said.
A passenger is rescued by South Korean maritime policemen from a sinking ship in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014, in this picture provided by West Regional Headquarters Korea Coast Guard and released by News1. About 160 passengers, including high school students, were plucked to safety on Wednesday in a dramatic rescue from a South Korean passenger ferry "Sewol" sinking with 475 on board, officials said, although at least two people had died. REUTERS/West Regional Headquarters Korea Coast Guard/News1
The mother of a passenger who was on a sinking ferry reacts as she finds her son's name in the survivors list at a gym where rescued passengers gather in Jindo April 16, 2014. More than 300 people were missing after the ferry sank off South Korea, the coastguard said on Wednesday, with a three-fold increase in the number of passengers unaccounted for put down to a miscalculation by officials. The ferry Sewol was carrying 477 people, of whom 164 were confirmed rescued, coastguard officials said. Two people were confirmed dead after the ferry listed heavily onto its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The mother (R) of a passenger who was on a sinking ferry reacts as she finds her son at a gym where rescued passengers gather in Jindo April 16, 2014. More than 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea, the coastguard said on Wednesday, with a three-fold increase in the number of passengers unaccounted for put down to a miscalculation by officials. The ferry Sewol was carrying 477 people, of whom 164 were confirmed rescued, coastguard officials said. Two people were confirmed dead after the ferry listed heavily onto its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
The mother of a passenger who was on a sinking ferry reacts after finding her son's name in the survivors list at a gym where rescued passengers gather in Jindo April 16, 2014. More than 300 people were missing after the ferry sank off South Korea, the coastguard said on Wednesday, with a three-fold increase in the number of passengers unaccounted for put down to a miscalculation by officials. The ferry Sewol was carrying 477 people, of whom 164 were confirmed rescued, coastguard officials said. Two people were confirmed dead after the ferry listed heavily onto its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Rescued passengers cry at a gym where rescued passengers gather in Jindo April 16, 2014. More than 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea, the coastguard said on Wednesday, with a three-fold increase in the number of passengers unaccounted for put down to a miscalculation by officials. The ferry Sewol was carrying 477 people, of whom 164 were confirmed rescued, coastguard officials said. Two people were confirmed dead after the ferry listed heavily onto its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast.REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
In this photo released by Jeollanamdo via Yonhap News Agency, South Korean rescue team boats and fishing boats try to rescue passengers of a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 477, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/Jeollanamdo via Yonhap)
In this image taken from video from Mokpo Coast Guard, passengers from a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, are rescued by South Korean Coast guard in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after the ferry carrying 477, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
REFILE - CORRECTION PRONOUN The mother of a passenger who was on a sinking ferry reacts as she finds her son at a gym where rescued passengers gather in Jindo April 16, 2014. More than 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea, the coastguard said on Wednesday, with a three-fold increase in the number of passengers unaccounted for put down to a miscalculation by officials. The ferry Sewol was carrying 477 people, of whom 164 were confirmed rescued, coastguard officials said. Two people were confirmed dead after the ferry listed heavily onto its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
In this photo released by South Korean Navy via Yonhap News Agency, South Korean rescue team boats and fishing boats try to rescue passengers of a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 477, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/South Korean Navy via Yonhap)
South Korean ferry "Sewol" is seen sinking in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014, in this picture provided by Korea Coast Guard and released by Yonhap. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea on Wednesday, the coastguard said, in what could be the country's biggest peacetime disaster in nearly 20 years. REUTERS/Korea Coast Guard/Yonhap
South Korean ferry "Sewol" is seen sinking in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014, in this picture provided by Korea Coast Guard and released by Yonhap. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea on Wednesday, the coastguard said, in what could be the country's biggest peacetime disaster in nearly 20 years. REUTERS/Korea Coast Guard/Yonhap
South Korean ferry "Sewol" is seen sinking in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014, in this picture provided by Korea Coast Guard and released by Yonhap. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea on Wednesday, the coastguard said, in what could be the country's biggest peacetime disaster in nearly 20 years. REUTERS/Korea Coast Guard/Yonhap
South Korea rescue helicopters fly over to rescue passengers from passenger ship Sewol in the water off the southern coast in South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. A government office says the South Korean ship carrying about 470 people have sent a distress call off the southern coast after it began tittering to one side. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
South Korean ferry "Sewol" is seen sinking in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014, in this picture provided by Korea Coast Guard and released by Yonhap. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea on Wednesday, the coastguard said, in what could be the country's biggest peacetime disaster in nearly 20 years. REUTERS/Korea Coast Guard/Yonhap
South Korean ferry "Sewol" is seen sinking in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014, in this picture provided by Korea Coast Guard and released by Yonhap. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry sank off South Korea on Wednesday, the coastguard said, in what could be the country's biggest peacetime disaster in nearly 20 years. REUTERS/Korea Coast Guard/Yonhap
In this photo released by South Korea Coast Guard via Yonhap News Agency, South Korean rescue team boats and fishing boats try to rescue passengers of a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 459, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/South Korea Coast Guard via Yonhap)
South Korean coast guard officers try to rescue passengers from a ferry sinking in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. The ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. At least four people were confirmed dead and 55 injured. (AP Photo/Yonhap)
In this image made from video from South Korean Coast Guard, a passenger of a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast is hoisted onto a Coast Guard helicopter off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 459, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/South Korean Coast Guard via AP Video)
In this image made from video from South Korean Coast Guard, a passenger of a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast is rescued and hoisted onto a Coast Guard helicopter off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 459, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/South Korean Coast Guard via AP Video)
Maritime police search for missing passengers in front of the South Korean ferry "Sewol" which sank at the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
In this image made from video from South Korean Coast Guard shot from a helicopter, a rescue worker, right in black wetsuit, helps people climb onto a side of a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 459, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast.
Maritime police search for missing passengers as the South Korean ferry "Sewol" (C) is seen sinking at the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
In this photo released by the South Korean Coast Guard via Yonhap News Agency, South Korean coast guard officers rescue passengers from a sinking ferry off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. A ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. (AP Photo/South Korea Coast Guard via Yonhap)
South Korean ferry "Sewol" is seen sinking at the sea off Jindo, as lighting flares are released for a night search, April 16, 2014. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Maritime police search for missing passengers near the South Korean ferry "Sewol" which sank at the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Maritime police search for missing passenger as lighting flares are released for a night search, following the sinking of South Korean ferry "Sewol" at the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Relatives wait for their missing loved ones at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. A ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A maritime officer (in black) rescues passengers onboard South Korean ferry "Sewol" which capsized off Jindo April 16, 2014 in this picture provided by West Regional Headquarters Korea Coast Guard and released by News1. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. REUTERS/West Regional Headquarters Korea Coast Guard/News1
Part of the capsized South Korean ferry "Sewol" (C) is seen in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014 in this picture provided by South Korean Navy and released by Yonhap. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. REUTERS/South Korean Navy/Yonhap
A relative waits for their missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. A ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Maritime officers (in black) try to rescue passengers (in orange coloured life vests) onboard South Korean ferry "Sewol" which capsized off Jindo April 16, 2014 in this picture provided by West Regional Headquarters Korea Coast Guard and released by News1. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. REUTERS/West Regional Headquarters Korea Coast Guard/News1
Part of the capsized South Korean ferry "Sewol" (C) is seen in the sea off Jindo April 16, 2014 in this picture provided by South Korean Navy and released by Yonhap. Almost 300 people were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, despite frantic rescue efforts involving coastguard vessels, fishing boats and helicopters, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. REUTERS/South Korean Navy/Yonhap
Relatives of passengers of a sunken ship wrapped in blankets look toward the sea at Jindo port, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. The ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Dozens of police formed a cordon around the dock on Jindo island as the latest bodies arrived. The death toll has shot up since the weekend when divers found a way to enter the submerged ferry. Officials said today the fatalities had reached 104.

The ferry sank with 476 people on board, many of them pupils from a single high school.

Families waited in anguish for word of their loved ones, trying to piece together small clues written on a white signboard, before finally getting enough information to make a positive identification.

Lee Byung-soo said when he saw his 15-year-old son's body in a tent he knew he was dead, but wanted so much for him to be alive. "Stop sleeping!" the lorry driver yelled as he hugged Lee Seok-joon. "Why are you sleeping so much? Daddy will save you!"

He pumped his son's chest and blew into his mouth to try to resuscitate him, "but I could only smell a rotting stench".

This type of heartbreak awaits the families of about 200 people still missing from the submerged Sewol, or at least those whose relatives' bodies are ultimately recovered.

Families who once dreamed of miraculous rescues now simply hope their loved ones' remains are recovered soon, before the ocean does much more damage.

After the bodies are pulled from the water, police and doctors look for forms of ID and take notes on the body's appearance, clothing and any identifying physical marks.

The bodies are transported to Jindo island, about an hour's boat ride away, as rescuers notify families waiting at the port, or at a gymnasium where many are sheltering. Bodies without IDs are described to officials in Jindo who relay the details to the relatives.

At the dock, bodies are taken to a white tent for another inspection, then transported by ambulance to another tent. A coroner there cleans up the bodies, mostly to wipe off oil and dirt and straighten limbs, and then the families file in.

About 250 of the more than 300 missing or dead are pupils from the high school, in Ansan near Seoul, who were on their way to the southern tourist island of Jeju.

The families, and South Koreans more broadly, have at times responded with fury. The captain initially told passengers to stay in their rooms and waited more than half an hour to issue an evacuation order as the Sewol sank. By then, the ship had tilted so much it is believed that many passengers were trapped inside.

At a cabinet briefing, President Park Geun-hye said: "What the captain and part of the crew did is unfathomable from the viewpoint of common sense. Unforgivable, murderous behaviour."

The captain, Lee Joon-seok, and two crew members have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Four other crew members have been detained.

A transcript of ship-to-shore communications revealed a ship that was crippled with indecision. A crew member asked repeatedly whether passengers would be rescued after abandoning ship even as the ferry tilted so sharply that it became impossible to escape.

Captain Lee, 68, has said he waited to issue an evacuation order because the current was strong, the water was cold and passengers could have drifted away before help arrived. But maritime experts said he could have ordered passengers to the deck - where they would have had a greater chance of survival - without telling them to abandon ship.

Emergency task force spokesman Koh Myung-seok said bodies were mostly found on the third and fourth floor of the ferries, where many passengers seemed to have gathered. Many students were also in cabins on the fourth floor, near the stern of the ship.

Many relatives of the dead and missing also have been critical of the government, which drew more outrage with the resignation of Song Young-chur, a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Security and Public Administration.

Mr Song, chief of the Regional Development Policy Bureau, reportedly tried to take a commemorative photo of the situation room in Jindo where government officials brief relatives of the missing.

Most of the bodies found have been recovered since the weekend, when divers, frustrated for days by strong currents, bad weather and poor visibility, were finally able to enter the ferry. But conditions remain challenging.

"I cannot see anything in front ... and the current underwater is too fast," said Choi Jin-ho, a professional diver who searched the ferry. "Then breathing gets faster and panic comes."

Searchers yesterday deployed a remote-controlled underwater camera dubbed the ROV1 to explore the inside of the ferry. Unlike divers who have to surface after 20 minutes, the US-built camera can be used for two to three hours.

The ministry official speaking today would not elaborate but provided a map that showed both the hard 115-degree turn originally estimated and the more gradual path the restored data describes.

Senior prosecutor Ahn Song-don said the third mate told investigators why she made the turn, but would not reveal her answer, saying more investigation was needed.

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