World News

    SKorea Ferry Sinking a Mystery for Investigators

    South Korean authorities continue investigating what caused a ferry to capsize off the country's southern coast, killing dozens and leaving nearly 300 people missing.

    Investigators said Friday they believe the 6,800-ton passenger boat made a sharp turn before listing, or leaning heavily to one side, and eventually capsizing.

    However, it is not clear what may have forced the ferry to turn, since weather conditions were relatively calm and the area was seemingly free of large rocks and reefs.

    There are also questions about what passengers have described as a loud bang that occurred moments before the ferry began to turn.

    Sam Bateman, a retired commodore in the Royal Australian Navy, cautions against making firm conclusions this early in the investigation.

    But he tells VOA the problem could be related to the stern, or rear, door of the ship, which allows vehicles and other large cargo to enter.



    "I suspect, from the descriptions with this Korean vessel and the talk of this 'bang' business, is that the stern door of the ferry somehow has given way."



    If water did, in fact, begin to enter through the stern door, Bateman says it could lead to an effect known as a "free surface," in which water sloshes around the deck, causing the craft to become unstable.



    "If you try and carry a big flat oven tray of water or something like that and you sort of tilt it to one side, it becomes off balance very easily. And that's the weakness of ferries, because once you get a bit of water onto a vehicle deck, and the ship's rolling a bit, it's very easy then for the water to create the free surface which creates the listing moment for the ship."



    The stern door theory would help explain why such a large ship capsized so quickly. But it does not account for why the door would have given way in the first place.

    One possibility is that an item of large cargo, such as one of the 150 cars on the ship, came loose. But Bateman says this seems unlikely, given the reported conditions at the time of the sinking.



    "The weather doesn't appear to have been particularly rough. So it shouldn't have been the case like an unsecured vehicle or something like that moving or a container on the vehicle deck. I suspect more some structural failure on the vessel itself."



    Bateman, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, does not believe the vessel stuck an uncharted rock, saying investigators would probably have located the rock by now.

    The incident is the latest in a series of deadly ferry crashes, which are raising concerns over the safety of passenger boats worldwide.

    Bateman says many ferry operators, particularly in developing countries, could improve standards meant to avoid overcrowding. He says passengers should also be given better pre-departure evacuation guidance.



    "When you fly on an aircraft, you get that pre-flight briefing about how to put on your life-jacket. And they also talk about the nearest exit route and all that sort of stuff. That rarely happens on a ferry."



    When riding a ferry, Bateman suggests passengers make a mental map of how to leave the ship in case of an emergency, locating at least two exits before the ship departs.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora