High seas halt search of sunken South Korean ferry

AP News
Posted: May 12, 2014 7:12 AM

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Bad weather prevented divers from searching inside the sunken, deteriorating South Korean ferry for a third day Monday.

Nearly a month after the ferry sank, 29 passengers remain missing, with 275 bodies recovered so far, most of them students from a single high school south of Seoul. No bodies have been found since Friday.

A high seas watch was lifted Monday morning but the search was not immediately resumed because of high waves and a rolling sea swell, emergency task force spokesman Ko Myung-seok said. Officials later said in a statement that the mission was further delayed because workers had to restore wires that disconnected from an anchor on a search barge during the bad weather.

Coast guard official Yang Jong-ta said the underwater search would resume as soon as the waves calmed.

Besides bad weather, the deterioration of the ferry is another big problem. Ko said it's difficult to enter some of the rooms as the entryways have been blocked because some waterlogged walls have partially collapsed. Ko said the team will open new entrances by using iron levers and other devices.

Meanwhile, South Korea's Welfare Ministry honored three dead crew members on the Sewol ferry by designating them as "martyrs."

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The ministry said 22-year-old Park Ji-young, 28-year-old Kim Ki-woong and 28-year-old Jung Hyun-seon sacrificed themselves by remaining in the sinking vessel to help others escape.

The three can be buried in a national cemetery, and their bereaved families will be eligible for financial compensation and medical assistance.

Only 172 people, including 22 of the 29 crew members, survived the April 16 disaster. All 15 surviving crew members involved in the ferry's navigation have been arrested on suspicion of negligence and failing to protect passengers.