Published: Sat, March 25, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Sewol ferry raised from South Korea seabed three years after disaster

Sewol ferry raised from South Korea seabed three years after disaster

Video: An animated film showing how the Sewol ferry was raised. The massive attempt to bring the ferry back to shore, almost three years after it sank, killing 304 people, is being closely watched by a nation that still vividly remembers the horrific accident.

Nearly all the victims were schoolchildren and it is thought that nine bodies still unaccounted for may be trapped inside.

The 145-metre ship was brought to the surface in a complex salvage operation believed to be among the largest recoveries ever of a wreck in one piece.

Most of the dead were high school students, and their deaths, followed by what was seen as a botched official rescue attempt, led to the public outrage which contributed to the recent removal of Park Geun-hye as president. "I thought we finally can find the missing nine", Lee Geum-hee, the mother of a missing schoolgirl, said.

Bringing the Sewol back to the port in Mokpo would be a step towards finding closure to one of the country's deadliest disasters.

Workers will then begin clearing mud and debris and search for the remains of the missing victims while investigators will search for clues as to the exact cause of the sinking.

South Korea's sunken Seoul ferry emerged from the waters on March 23, Thursday.

Workers planned to complete loading the ferry onto a semi-submersible transport vessel by midnight Friday.

Salvage crews raised the Sewol until its upper side was about 13 meters (42 feet) above the water's surface so that they could load it onto the transport vessel about two miles away.

Salvagers started to bring up the vessel, which has been lying on its side at a depth of 44 metres (144 feet), late on Wednesday, and worked through the night. The sea is relatively calm now, but currents are forecast to strengthen on Saturday. The government favors cutting off the passenger cabin area and raising it upright before searching for the missing victims, while families fear that cutting into the ship might harm any victims' remains.

Many bereaved family members and their supporters want a more thorough investigation into the government's responsibility over the sinking, questioning why more senior officials have not been held accountable.

Park denied accusations that she failed to act decisively but for many South Korans, she has never fully explained what she was doing during the seven hours between the first news reports and her first television appearance that day.

The captain of the ferry was found guilty of homicide in 2015 and jailed for life.

Park was formally removed from office by the constitutional Court earlier this month.

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