Transcript reveals Korea ferry confusion

2014-04-20 14:30
South Korean relatives of passengers on board a capsized ferry cry as they wait for news about their loved ones, at a gym in Jindo. (Jung Yeon-Je, AFP)

South Korean relatives of passengers on board a capsized ferry cry as they wait for news about their loved ones, at a gym in Jindo. (Jung Yeon-Je, AFP)

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Jindo — A transcript released on Sunday of communications with the South Korean ferry that sank details crippling confusion and indecision, with a crew member questioning whether an evacuation was the right move well after the ship began listing dangerously.

"If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?" a crew member on the ferry Sewol asked Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Centre (VTS) at 09:24, local time, on Wednesday, about a half-hour after the ship began listing. That followed several statements from the ship saying it was impossible for people aboard the ship to even move, and another in which it said it was "impossible to broadcast" instructions.

"Even if it's impossible to broadcast, please go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing," an unidentified VTS official urged just before the Sewol asked about the prospects for rescue.

"The rescue of human lives of Sewol ferry ... the captain should make your own decision and evacuate them," the VTS official said. "We don't know the situation very well. The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you're going to evacuate passengers or not."

"I'm not talking about that," responded the unidentified ferry crew member. "I asked, if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?"

The VTS official said patrol boats would arrive in 10 minutes, but did not mention that another civilian ship was already nearby and had said 10 minutes earlier that it would rescue anyone who went overboard.

The captain initially ordered passengers to stay in their rooms, and took more than a half hour to issue an evacuation order — an order several passengers have said they never heard. More than 50 bodies have been recovered, about 250 people remain missing and only 174 are known to have survived.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that South Korean prosecutors investigating the disaster said on Sunday they wanted to extend the detention of the captain and two other crew as they try to determine the cause of the accident that likely claimed more than 300 lives.

- AP
Read more on:    south korea  |  ferry disaster  |  maritime
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