Ferry investigation targets maritime police

Ferry investigation targets maritime police
A relative weeps before yellow ribbons at Jindo harbour where relatives of family members of the 'Sewol' ferry are waiting for developments in the search and recovery operations, on April 27, 2014.

South Korean authorities on Sunday expanded their probe into the ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing as search and rescue operations continued at a slow pace off the southern coast.

Since the passenger ferry Sewol sank on April 16, the death toll has climbed to 188, with 114 still unaccounted for, as of 6 pm Sunday.

As part of the investigation into the accident, investigators requested search warrants for the Coast Guard in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province, to look into whether the maritime police mishandled its rescue response. Investigators plan to raid the situation room of the Coast Guard on Monday if its warrant is granted by the court.

Prosecutors will also investigate whether the maritime police reacted to the distress call in accordance with its manual and whether their response was appropriate.

Public criticism has mounted over the Coast Guard's initial response after it was discovered that it had asked a teenage passenger, who first called for help, about the latitude and longitude of the site.

Earlier in the day, prosecutors raided Jeju Vessel Traffic Service and seized communications log and surveillance camera records to look into possibilities of negligence of duties, officials said.

The Jeju VTS was the first service that Sewol crew members contacted for urgent help, a few minutes after passenger's report to the maritime police. Receiving the report from the ferry crew, the Jeju VTS passed the report to the Jindo VTS as the ferry was within the Jindo VTS control area.

This is the second raid following the Jindo VTS office. On Saturday, the authorities seized communication and phone records that were conducted between the Jindo office and the ferry crew.

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