Arrest warrant issued against captain, two other crew members of sunken South Korean ferry

Last Updated: Friday, April 18, 2014 - 17:46

Zee Media Bureau

Seol: The captain of the sunken South Korean ferry and two other crew members were issued arrest warrant by a court on Friday, as per CNN reports.

The South Korean prosecutors had earlier demanded the arrest of the captain of the ferry that sank two days ago, leaving hundreds missing and feared dead.

They had also demanded the arrest of two other crewmembers.

Meanwhile, divers battled strong currents and murky waters on Friday to finally enter the South Korean ferry two days after it sank, as investigators revealed the captain was not at the helm when the vessel capsized with hundreds on board.

The initial public backlash has centred on the captain, Lee Joon-Seok, and his 28 crew, most of whom survived the disaster.

State prosecutors said preliminary investigations showed the third officer was at the helm of the ferry."The captain was not in command when the accident took place," prosecutor Park Jae-Eok told a press briefing.

More than 48 hours after the ferry suddenly listed and capsized, exhausted dive teams -- who waded through powerful currents -- finally managed to access the interior.

After several attempts, two divers managed to pry open a door and enter the cargo section, a senior coastguard official said, briefing relatives of the missing.

Hours later another two-man team accessed one of the cabins, but found nothing.

"The search operation will continue through the night," the official said.

"Visibility is almost non-existent. You can hardly see your hand in front of you face," said one diver when he returned to the harbour at nearby Jindo island.

The confirmed death toll stood at 28, but the focus of concern remained on the 268 still unaccounted for.

Of the 475 people on board when the Sewol capsized, only 179 were rescued and no new survivors have been found since Wednesday.

Three giant, floating cranes reached the rescue site, but regional coastguard commander Kim Soo-Hyun stressed they would not begin lifting the multi-deck ferry until they were sure there were no survivors inside.

More than 350 of those on board were from the Danwon High School in Ansan city just south of Seoul.

Among the parents of those students still missing there was bitter resentment at what they saw as the inadequacy of the official response.

"It`s been two days but no one has been brought out alive," complained Lee Yong-Gi, whose son was among the missing students.

"I firmly believe that the kids are alive. We need to rescue them as soon as possible. But officials are dragging their feet," Lee told a news agency. Another father accused the authorities of indifference and deception in an appeal broadcast live on television.

"The government lied yesterday," he said, speaking from a podium in a Jindo gymnasium where hundreds of blanket-wrapped relatives have been sleeping on the floor since the tragedy unfolded.

Disputing the official figures of hundreds of divers, vessels and aircraft being deployed, he said he and other relatives had visited the rescue site and seen only a dozen ships and helicopters.

Local police said they found the body Friday of Danwon High School vice-principal, Kang Min-Kyu, who had managed to escape the Sewol as it sank.

Police said the cause of death was under investigation, but sources cited by local media said he was found hanging by his belt from a tree next to the gymnasium.
The captain had apologised on Thursday to the victims and their relatives, but offered no clear explanation for what caused the Sewol to capsize.

(With AFP inputs)



First Published: Friday, April 18, 2014 - 17:38

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