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South Korean ferry disaster leads to continuous mourning

by BETHANY LU Staff Writer

The sinking of the Sewol ferry, which took place off the south coast of South Korea on April 16, 2014, left more than two hundred people missing or dead.

On Wednesday, the day of the incident, only 174 people were rescued right after the ferry sank. Not a single survivor has been found since.

Divers spent days underwater to locate the lost passengers who died during the sinking. They are hoping to recover all, or at least most, of the 194 bodies that are still nowhere to be found.

“We’re going in thinking there may be survivors. When we have to come back with nothing, we can’t even face the families,” says rescue diver Bard Yoon.

The Sewol ship carried 376 passengers, most of which were high school students and teachers who were taking a field trip to the resort island of Jeju.

“It hurts me immensely, as all of those students had potential to influence the next generation but could not do so,” said freshman Anurva Saste.

The rescuers are now focusing their target on the third and fourth decks of the five level ship. They believe that most passengers were at the cafeterias during the sinking because the incident occurred in the morning.

In addition to the tragedy, many Korean families are mourning for the loss of their loved ones and the missing population.

At Jindo Island, a nearby location of the sinking, tents have even been set up storing recovered corpses. Many citizens say they hear the cries of families who have identified their deceased.

“The conditions are so bad, my heart aches,” says Yoon.

Currently, the captain and 11 crew members that operated the ship are under arrest. The captain’s violations will most likely result in the charge of a life sentence in prison.

As the sinking began, the captain refused to hand out life jackets, and he abandoned the vessel before evacuation was completed. He claimed that he and the ship’s operators feared that the passengers would not survive the cold waters. He also added that the ship was very heavy at that time, which made it hard to reach lifeboats.

South Korean president Park Geun-hye called the captain and some of the crew members’ actions “unforgivable” and “murderous”.

“[The captain] should definitely go to jail and pay for all the things that happened to the students…This kind of incident should never happen again,” says senior Sara Park.

The Sewol sinking is now the worst maritime disaster in the history of South Korea since the 1993 major ferry disaster when 362 passengers died on board. Citizens criticized the government for not managing to rescue more than 174 people.

“I pray for the families whose loved ones were on the ferry. It’s a very devastating event and we need to further enhance the security and safety of passengers,” freshman Shirley Hu says.

What caused the ferry to sink remains unknown, and authorities are hoping to bring back all the missing ones.

Have you been following the events of the sinking? What are your feelings on the captain and crew members’ actions?

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