Thursday, April 17, 2014

disaster at sea

It happened early yesterday, April 16, so I'm far behind the ever-accelerating news cycle, but a Korean ferry, on its way from Incheon to Jeju Island with 459 passengers and crew, capsized and sank yesterday near Jindo, within two hours of sending out a 9AM distress call after the boat apparently suffered a mysterious impact that breached the hull, allowing seawater to rush into the vessel. The crew had, strangely, instructed the passengers to remain where they were; some initial (and thus unreliable) reports indicate that this move may have cost lives: some of the nearly 180 passengers who have thus far been rescued have claimed that their rescue was possible because they took the initiative to abandon the ship.

Wild-eyed speculation as to the cause of the accident currently ranges from random rocks to nefarious action by North Korea. Nothing more will truly be known until the ship's hull has been extensively examined. For the moment, officials' efforts are focused entirely on rescuing the nearly 290 people, mostly high schoolers, who are still reckoned as missing. There is a good chance that survivors remain inside the overturned ship, possibly inhabiting whatever air pockets they have been able to find.

News sites have noted that this current disaster—if the missing turn out to be dead—is on a scale comparable to that of a similar ferry disaster that occurred in 1993. In that incident, 292 lives were lost. Currently, anxious families await news about the fates of their loved ones. One news site showed a text message sent by a son to his mother, in which he expressed his love and said he might not have the chance to do so again.

The USS Bonhomme Richard, of the US Navy, has been drafted into the rescue effort. South Korean President Park Geun-hye has urged workers to do their utmost to find and save as many survivors as possible.

At this point, no one has given up hope, which means that nearly 290 people are still being reported as missing, not as having been lost. May the ongoing efforts prove fruitful.



Charles said...

A couple things to note:

*The ship did not originally send out a distress call. The authorities found out about the disaster when a parent of one of the schoolkids called it in (the student had apparently called home to say that something seemed to be wrong with the boat).
*The captain and "core crew members" abandoned the ship without seeing to the rescue of the passengers. They were questioned by authorities overnight, although I don't know what came of that.

All in all, although I don't like to jump to conclusions, this looks to be a case of, if not gross negligence, at the very least dereliction of duty (if the term can be used for a civilian crew). In plain language, it's disgusting. I'm not saying the captain has to go down with the ship, but something is wrong if he's one of the first people off.

Kevin Kim said...


Yes, I did read some news to that effect, but the information seemed somewhat early and tentative in nature at the time. It is, however, consistent with the idea that the crew acted strangely in telling the passengers to remain where they were and not to evacuate.

This feels a bit like Sampoong Department Store all over again: the people in charge do nothing to help others, merely fleeing to save their own skin. Many heads should roll for this. But will they?