Grieving S. Korean parents consumed by agony and anger

Grieving S. Korean parents consumed by agony and anger

JINDO, South Korea - The pin-drop silence as the student's name was read out was broken by a piercing scream of anguished recognition as her shattered parents clutched each other in the cold, harbour gymnasium.

The announcement of the sixth confirmed victim from the sinking of a South Korean ferry carrying hundreds of high school students came after a night-long vigil for relatives who had travelled to the southern island of Jindo to be near the rescue effort.

The gymnasium where hundreds spent the night on the floor looked more like a refugee camp or triage station, with some overwrought relatives on saline drips after collapsing with nervous exhaustion.

Others huddled together in blankets, seeking some common comfort and exchanging what little information they had about the nearly 300 people still missing 24 hours after the ferry went down.

One father wept silently, covering his face with his hands as his wife tried to console him.

Some like Park Yu-Shin, whose student daughter was among the missing, had been able to stay in contact with their loved ones until the last moment.

"She was telling me: 'we're putting on our life vests. They're telling us to wait and stay put, so we're waiting, Mom. I can see a helicopter'," Park recalled, her voice breaking with emotion.

Unable to sleep, some spent the night on the quay of Jindo harbour, staring out to sea as if willing their children back to safety.

"My daughter is out there, somewhere out there in the cold sea," said one anguished mother.

Every time one of the many coastguard vessels involved in the search returned to the harbour, there was a flurry of activity as relatives jostled on the quayside, hopeful of some fresh news.

Pressing the rescue teams not to give up, some said they had received recent text messages from their children trapped in the boat, but their claims could not be verified and there was no official confirmation of any contact with trapped survivors after the boat sank.

Amid the grief and anxiety, their was also a growing sense of anger and frustration.

Anger towards the heavy media presence which many found intrusive, and a reflexive anger with just about any official who turned up.

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