S Korea salvage operators raise Sewol ferry

PHOTO: Youtube screengrab

South Korea on Wednesday took a long-awaited step to salvage the sunken Sewol ferry, as the wreckage began to be lifted from the seabed.

In the red circle, part of the Sewol's structure is seen above the water. Photo: The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

About 300 people, mostly high school students, died when it went aground and capsized in waters off Jindo, South Jeolla Province, nearly three years ago. Nine are still unaccounted for.

Salvage operators said they began to raise the sunken ship and part of its structure was revealed above the water around 3:45 a.m. nearly three years after the disaster took place.

If the entire ferry will be raised, two salvage barges will move the hull on a semisubmersible ship, which will carry it to the port of Mokpo, according to a news report.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, which controls the salvage operation, expects that it will take about 12-13 days to lift the ship and move it into Mokpo.

Photo: The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

With some of the bereaved families watching from boats, engineers began the salvage operation at 8:50 p.m., which involves lifting the 145-meter-long, 6,850-ton passenger vessel without cutting it into pieces.

Two barges prepare a test for the salvage of the sunken Sewol ferry in waters off Jindo, South Jeolla Province, Wednesday.Photo: The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

"The wreckage was lifted about 1 meter off the seabed at around 3:30 p.m.," the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries told reporters.

Many Koreans hoped for the ship's safe but swift recovery Wednesday.

"We thank all those who have supported us. We need you once again to pray for the safe salvage of the ship and return of the nine (passengers) who are still in there," said family members of the passengers whose bodies are still unaccounted for at a press conference at a port in Jindo, Wednesday.

A conspicuously larger number of people paid a visit to a memorial in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, for Sewol victims, praying for the ferry's recovery and the return of those missing.

"Three years have passed, I cannot imagine what the families have gone through. I wish the causes of the ferry sinking will come out to the surface as well," said 59-year-old Song Cheol-sub.

A centre for bereaved families and a memorial classroom of Danwon High School in Ansan -- where most of the student victims attended -- also received a larger number of visitors and volunteers Wednesday.

The ill-fated passenger ship was carrying 476 people to a southern resort island of Jeju when it sank on April 16, 2014. Just 172 passengers were rescued.

South Korea raises sunken Sewol ferry

  • The sunken ferry Sewol is prepared to be moved onto semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and released by News1 on March 24, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol is moved toward semi-submersible ship (not pictured) during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 24, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol is moved toward semi-submersible ship (not pictured) during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 24, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol is prepared to be moved onto semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and released by News1 on March 24, 2017.
  • Family members of victims onboard the sunken ferry Sewol cry as they look on during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 24, 2017.
  • A family member of a victim onboard the sunken ferry Sewol looks on as it is moved toward semi-submersible ship (not pictured) during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 24, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol is moved onto a semisubmersible ship (not pictured) during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 24, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 25, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and released by News1 on March 25, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and released by Yonhap on March 26, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and released by Yonhap on March 26, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 26, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 26, 2017.
  • A family member of a victim onboard the sunken ferry Sewol looks on during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 26, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 26, 2017.
  • Family members of victims onboard the sunken ferry Sewol react as they look on during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 26, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 26, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 26, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 26, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 26, 2017.
  • Workers work on the sunken ferry Sewol sitting on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and released by Yonhap on March 27, 2017.
  • Workers work on the sunken ferry Sewol sitting on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and released by Yonhap on March 27, 2017.
  • Workers work on the sunken ferry Sewol sitting on a semi-submersible ship during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, in this handout picture provided by the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and released by Yonhap on March 27, 2017.
  • A family member of a victim onboard the sunken ferry Sewol looks on during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 27, 2017.
  • People hold yellow balloons dedicated to the victims onboard the sunken ferry Sewol during an event at a port in Jindo, South Korea, March 28, 2017.
  • People release yellow balloons dedicated to the victims onboard the sunken ferry Sewol during an event at a port in Jindo, South Korea, March 28, 2017.
  • This handout photo provided and taken on March 28, 2017 by South Korean Maritime Ministry shows relatives of the missing from the Sewol ferry disaster looking at the damaged Sewol ferry during a memorial service on a ship off the coast of the southern South Korean island of Jindo.
  • People and relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry watch the ongoing salvage operation off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo on March 28, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship in preparation of transport during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 30, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship in preparation of transport during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 30, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship in preparation of transport during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 30, 2017.
  • The sunken ferry Sewol sits on a semi-submersible ship in preparation of transport during its salvage operations at the sea off Jindo, South Korea, March 30, 2017.
  • Police walk in front of the wreck of the Sewol ferry after it arrived at a port in Mokpo on March 31, 2017.
  • The wreck of the Sewol ferry arrives at a port in Mokpo on March 31, 2017.
  • Bystanders watch as the wreck of the Sewol ferry arrives at a port in Mokpo on March 31, 2017.
  • A general view shows the wreck of the Sewol ferry as it arrives mounted on a semi-submersible barge at a port in Mokpo on March 31, 2017.
  • Bystanders watch as the wreck of the Sewol ferry arrives at a port in Mokpo on March 31, 2017.
  • This handout photo provided and taken on March 28, 2017 by South Korean Maritime Ministry shows relatives of the missing from the Sewol ferry disaster throwing flowers during a memorial service on a ship near the damaged Sewol ferry off the coast of the southern South Korean island of Jindo.

The government had earlier this week said that the salvage effort will likely take place during the next neap tide on April 5.

The ministry has been carefully reviewing the weather conditions around the site as it requires calm seas. To proceed with the salvage operation, waves should not exceed 1 meter in height and wind should be at less than 10 meters per second.

Bad weather and high tides have several times delayed the resumption of operations to raise the wreckage of the ship.

"We need to lift the ship at least 35 meters off from the seabed during the actual lifting. Then we will be able to see about 13 meters of the hull of the ferry above the surface, to be dried out and ready to dock to another vessel to be carried to land for inspection," said Lee Cheol-jo, a ministry official in charge of the salvage project.

If work goes smoothly, the whole process will take about 14 days, he added.

The ship, lying on the sea floor on its left side, would normal weigh 8,300 metric tons according to the ministry, but water, stones and sand inside has increased that to about 20,000 metric tons.

The government announced the salvage operation plan in 2015, but the timeline for raising Sewol has been repeatedly postponed due to adverse weather and technical problems.

The ‘female Rasputin’ at centre of S Korean President Park Geun-Hye political scandal

  • South Korean President Park Geun-Hye is facing calls to resign over allegations she allowed a close personal friend to meddle in state affairs.
  • People watch a television news report showing South Korean President Park Geun-Hye making a public apology, at a railway station in Seoul on October 25, 2016.
  • South Korean President Park Geun-hye bows after releasing a statement of apology to the public during a news conference at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, October 25, 2016.
  • South Korea’s presidential office said on Saturday it was cooperating with prosecutors’investigation into key aides to President Park Geun-hye over allegations an old friend of hers enjoyed inappropriate influence over her.
  • Prosecutors’ request for presidential Blue House documents came ahead of an evening protest expected to draw thousands in central Seoul calling for Park’s resignation amid a scandal that has cast her presidency into crisis.
  • A woman attends a protest denouncing President Park Geun-hye over a recent influence-peddling scandal in central Seoul
  • Protestors hang a caricature showing South Korean President Park Geun-Hye (L) and her confidante Choi Soon-Sil (C), on a board during a rally denouncing a scandal over President Park's aide in Seoul on October 27, 2016.
  • South Korean prosecutors on October 27 set up a high-powered "task-force" to probe a widening scandal involving alleged influence-peddling by a close confidante of President Park Geun-Hye. Choi Soon-Sil, an enigmatic woman with no government position, was already part of an investigation into allegations that she used her relationship with the president to strong-arm conglomerates into multi-million dollar donations to two non-profit foundations.
  • Park’s office said late on Friday she had ordered her senior secretaries to tender their resignations, and she will reshuffle the office in the near future. Her chief of staff separately offered to resign earlier, the office said.
  • The deepening crisis over allegations that Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, enjoyed inappropriate influence over her has sent her public support to an all-time low, with more than 40 percent in an opinion poll saying Park should resign or be impeached.

Read also: South Korea raises sunken ferry: Yonhap
S Korean presidential scandal sheds new light on Sewol ferry's '7-hour mystery'
Emotional graduation ceremony for Sewol ferry survivors
Angry and divided, South Korea mourns on anniversary of ferry disaster

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