Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, April 18, 2014

Breaking Fragile Hearts

"There are 160 divers from the special forces, but the current is so strong that they are being swept away when they enter the water."
"The teams are tapping on the outside of the ship with hammers to listen for any survivors inside. When they can go in, only two divers at a time can fit because the corridors are so narrow."
"There is an air pocket in the front of the boat. If anyone made it there, they may have survived. But for anyone in the rest of the boat, the hopes are low."
Kim Dohyun, Korean Special Forces liaison

"The parents are very upset about the captain of the coast guard who ordered the civilian divers to leave. There is no clear chain of command, the navy, the special forces, the coast guard and the local police all have different commanders and do not talk to each other."
Jin Kwangyung, father of missing Yoonhwee
Parents whose children were aboard the Sewol ferry and are now missing rest on the floor at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea on April 18, 2014. The captain of the doomed ferry delayed evacuation for half an hour after a South Korean transportation official ordered preparations to abandon ship, raising more questions about whether quick action could have saved lives.
Photo, Ahn Young-joon -- Parents rest on floor of gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, 18 April 2014
Wrapped in light raincoats against the wind and the rain, parents stood in agonized vigil on the jetty. Their teenage children -- 250 of them and most certainly no longer alive trapped inside the 6,200-tonne Korean ferry Sewol -- rested underwater, twenty kilometres from the jetty. They had been en route to a four-day field trip on the holiday island of Jeju. So festive and yet ordinary an event, suddenly turned into a viciously dreadful catastrophe.

The captain of the vessel had turned over control of the steering to a third officer with scant training. And Captain Lee Joon-seok was being asked why it was that he had been among the first on board the sinking ship to evacuate, while knowing full well the desperate state of affairs, and that hundreds of passengers, high school teens in his care, were desperately helpless below. Abandonment of responsibility, for which a shamed apology could do nothing to salve the festering wound of loss.

South Korean Navy officials work on buoys to mark the sunken passenger ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea.
South Korean Navy officials work on buoys to mark the sunken passenger ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea.  (Photo: AP)
Navy divers are attempting to do what they can under truly vicious sea conditions leaving them scant visibility. They have been unable to enter the submerged ferry's hull. So dreadful were the weather conditions and the swelling seawaters the divers were forced to abandon their efforts by early afternoon. Officials who would not allow their names to be used commented that the chance of finding any passengers alive would be "close to zero".

"We have received at least 20 text messages from children on the boat who are still alive", wailed one mother on the jetty. Spoken communication with the children still on board was not possible due to weak mobile-phone conditions, but text messages were getting through initially; messages like "Mom, I'm sending you this now because I'm afraid I might not be able to say it later. I love you." Or, "Dad, don't worry. I'm wearing a life vest and am with other girls. We're inside the ship, still in the hallway."

Tell these parents that there is no longer any hope their cherished children will be found alive? Some of the waiting parents had to be held back by the crowd, to stop them from attacking coast guard officials on the jetty. "Children are dying! They sent messages! What do you mean bad weather has stopped you!", shouted a father.

The ship, explained Kim the special forces liaison, had been "outside its authorized route", and may have struck a rock, gashing the prow. Rescued passengers had recalled a loud bang. Investigators felt the ship had turned sharply left before tilting representing perhaps the captain attempting to steer back on course. A suggestion was made that the load of 160 vehicles and over a thousand tonnes of cargo may have shifted, improperly secured, causing the ship to "tilt out of control", when it turned.
A relative of a missing passenger weeps as she waits at the port on Jindo Island.
A relative of a missing passenger weeps as she waits at the port on Jindo Island.  (Photo: Chung Sung-Jun, Getty Images)
"There are few people on the ship, can't see a thing, it's totally dark. So there are few men and women, women are screaming and we are not dead yet, so please send along this message." 
Student to parent text message.

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