South Korea ferry disaster: President condemns crew`s inaction, calls it `akin to murder`

By Sushmita Dutta | Last Updated: Monday, April 21, 2014 - 22:36

Zee Media Bureau

Seoul: Describing the ferry disaster as `akin to murder`, South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday condemned the action of the crew members of the ship which capsized and sank off the country`s south-western coast last week, a BBC report said.

“Those to blame would have to take "criminal and civil" responsibility for their actions,” Park said.

Nearly 300 people went missing last week after a ferry sank on Wednesday with 462 on board, mostly high school students bound for a holiday island.

The passengers included 325 students from a high school in Ansan just south of Seoul, who were travelling with their teachers to the popular island resort of Jeju.

The divers have till now managed to rescue 174 bodies from the sunken ferry, raising the death toll to 64, as investigations showed that it was not the captain but an inexperienced 25-yr-old woman crew, referred as `third mate` who steered the ship `more than usual`.
National disaster agency officials said 174 people had been rescued, leaving 238 others "unaccounted for".

There are concerns the death toll could rise sharply. The 6,825-tonne Sewol listed violently, capsized and finally sank -- all within two hours of sending a distress signal at 9:00am (0000 GMT) on last week Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, the investigating officers have arrested three crew members, including the captain, for deserting the ship without making efforts to evacuate passengers.

Captain Lee Joon-seok, 69, was arrested on Saturday on five charges including negligence of duty and abandonment resulting in death. He ordered passengers to stay put even when he and other crew members left the sinking ferry. The captain was among the first to escape from the vessel.

Four more crew members of the disaster hit ferry were charged with negligence of duty and violation of rescue acts today.

Prosecutors arrested four crew members -- two first mates, one second mate and one chief engineer -- of the ferry Sewol, which capsized and sank off Jindo Island, on the southwestern tip of South Korea.

After being questioned, they were arrested today as prosecutors needed to hold them in custody for questioning for up to 30 days.

Among those arrested was a first mate surnamed Kang who communicated with the Jindo vessel traffic centre during the last minutes before the ship sank.
Communication logs, unveiled yesterday by the pan-government response centre, showed the vessel`s captain may have escaped from the sinking vessel after handing over the communication duty to the first mate

Some arrested sailors have reportedly told prosecutors that orders of leaving the vessel were not delivered to passengers, which is contradictory to the captain`s testimonies.

First Published: Monday, April 21, 2014 - 19:04

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