Hopes fade in ferry rescue

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has consented to send a message of condolence to Park Geun-Hye, President of the Republic of Korea, following a recent accident involving the sinking of a ship off the waters of the Republic of Korea.

In His Majesty’s message to President Park Geun-Hye, the monarch said he was extremely saddened to hear about the loss of life from the tragic accident of the passenger ship ‘Sewol’.

His Majesty and the government and people of Brunei Darussalam conveyed their deepest sympathies and condolences to Park Geun-Hye, the government and people of the Republic of Korea, especially to the bereaved families of the students, crew, passengers and others who were affected by this very unfortunate incident.

An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea’s southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilise the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member told AP Thursday.

The first instructions from the captain were for the passengers to put on life jackets and stay put, and it was not until about 30 minutes later that he ordered an evacuation, Oh Yong-seok, a 58-year-old crew member, said.

But Oh said he wasn’t sure if the captain’s order, given to crew members, was actually relayed to passengers on the public address system.

Several survivors also told the AP that they never heard any evacuation order.

The loss of that precious time may have deprived many passengers of the opportunity to escape as The Sewol sank on Wednesday, not too far from the southern city of Mokpo.

Nine people, including five students and two teachers, were confirmed dead, but the toll was expected to jump amid fears that the missing 287 passengers – many high school students – were dead. The confirmed fatalities include a female crew member in her 20s, five high school students and two teachers. Coast guard officials put the number of survivors Thursday at 179.

The increasingly anxious search for the missing was hampered Thursday by strong currents, rain and bad visibility.

There were 475 people aboard, including 325 students on a school trip to the tourist island of Jeju in the south of the country. The ferry had travelled overnight from Incheon on the northwestern coast of South Korea, and was three hours short of its destination when the ship began to list. The cause is not yet known. - Borneo Bulletin (18 April 2014)