News / Asia

    Transcripts Show Confusion Over S. Korean Ferry Evacuation

    A family member of a missing passenger who was on the capsized Sewol ferry, looks out to the sea from the port where family members of missing passengers have gathered, in Jindo April 20, 2014.
    A family member of a missing passenger who was on the capsized Sewol ferry, looks out to the sea from the port where family members of missing passengers have gathered, in Jindo April 20, 2014.
    VOA News
    Divers continue to pull bodies from the sunken South Korean ferryboat, as authorities widened their inquiry and released transcripts capturing the confusion as the ship capsized five days ago.
     
    The recovery operation, involving hundreds of divers, ships and aircraft, brought the total death toll to 58 Sunday, with 246 still unaccounted for.  Most of the victims are high school students.
     
    Marine traffic control transcripts, released Sunday, showed that the crew was hesitant to order passengers to abandon ship.
     
    The captain, Lee Jun-seok, has said he did not order an immediate evacuation because he feared the passengers would be in danger from the strong currents and the cold water, which is about 10 degrees Celsius. Lee was one of the first to leave the ferry.
     
    According to the transcript, Jindo Vessel Traffic Services instructed the crew to get passengers off the boat as other boats rushed to save them after the ferry carrying 476 people began to capsize.
     
    But crew members told traffic controllers that their attempts to order an evacuation were stymied by a faulty announcement system.
     
    Tracking data shows the ship took a sharp turn while navigating a group of small islands off South Korea's southwestern coast.
     
    There are 174 known survivors, with no one rescued since Wednesday.  
     
    South Korean prosecutors say the ferry was being steered by a 26-year-old third mate who was navigating the area for the first time.
     
    Authorities have confirmed that the ship's captain was in his quarters, leaving the inexperienced third mate at the helm. 
     
    The captain, the third mate and one other crew member were arrested Saturday on charges of deserting their passengers as the ferry was sinking.
     
    Authorities have not established the cause of the disaster, but some survivors report hearing a loud impact noise before the vessel tilted and began sinking.
     
    On Friday, Yonhap quoted investigators as saying the ferry's sudden turn may have caused 180 vehicles and nearly 1,200 tons of freight to shift, causing the vessel to tilt to one side.

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