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South Korean Diver Dies While Searching Ferry

  • VOA News

South Korean divers operate at the site where the capsized passenger ship Sewol sank off Jindo, South Korea, on April 20, 2014.

South Korean divers operate at the site where the capsized passenger ship Sewol sank off Jindo, South Korea, on April 20, 2014.

A civilian diver lost consciousness and died on Tuesday during the search operation for victims still missing after last month's South Korean ferry disaster.

The diver, 53, had lost radio contact five minutes after diving to fix guideline ropes on the fifth deck of the sunken ferry, said Ko Myung-seok, spokesman for the government's emergency task force.

The man is the first fatality among divers mobilized following the ferry's sinking, according to the Korea Coast Guard.

The diver had been working for Undine Marine Industries, the company brought in to lead search efforts on the Sewol ferry.

Despite his death, divers took advantage of better weather and easing ocean currents to continue their searches on Tuesday.

Authorities believe most of the remaining missing people are in 64 of the ship's 111 areas. Ko said divers have searched all those 64 areas at least once and plan to revisit them again to look for more victims.

The Sewol carried 476 people, most of them students from a single high school near Seoul, when it sank off South Korea's southern coast on April 16. Only 174 survived, including 22 of the 29 crew members. The sinking left more than 260 people dead, with about 40 others still missing.

Also Tuesday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye voiced criticism of the role played by the sunken ferry operator and government officials.

Park and her government have been criticized over the authorities' slow response to the sinking of the ferry and for lax regulation of the shipping industry.

Speaking at a temple in Seoul to celebrate Buddha’s birthday, Park said, “People who were blinded by worldly desires did not abide by safety regulations, and by overlooking such an injustice, it has eventually caused the death of people.”

She promised to fundamentally change national policies and systems to improve safety and to clean up malpractice to ensure businesses and government officials comply with requirements.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP.
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