Sunken South Korea ferry relatives give DNA swabs to help identify dead

Apr 19 2014, 15:46 IST
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Relatives of a missing passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast listen to a briefing from Korea Coast Guard officials about a rescue and search operation at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea. (AP) Relatives of a missing passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast listen to a briefing from Korea Coast Guard officials about a rescue and search operation at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea. (AP)
SummaryRelatives of some of the more than 200 children missing in a sunken South Korean ferry offered DNA swabs to help identify the dead.

Relatives of some of the more than 200 children missing in a sunken South Korean ferry offered DNA swabs on Saturday to help identify the dead as a rescue turned into a mission to recover the vessel and the bodies of those on board.

The Sewol, carrying 476 passengers and crew, capsized on Wednesday on a journey from the port of Incheon to the southern holiday island of Jeju. Thirty-two people are known to have died.

The 69-year-old captain, Lee Joon-seok, was arrested in the early hours of Saturday on charges of negligence along with two other crew members, including the third mate who was steering at the time of the capsize.

Prosecutors later said the mate was steering the Sewol through the waters where it listed and capsized - for the first time in her career.

Asked why the children had been ordered to stay put in their cabins instead of abandoning ship, Lee, apparently overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, told reporters he feared they would have been swept out to sea in the strong, cold current.

Early reports said that the ferry turned sharply and listed, perhaps due to a shift in the cargo it was carrying and crew members said the captain, who was not initially on the bridge, had tried to right the ship but failed.

Some 500 relatives of the 272 people missing watched a murky underwater video shot after divers reported they had seen three bodies through the windows.

The official number of those missing was revised up from an earlier estimate of 269.

Packed in a gymnasium in the port city of Jindo day and night since Wednesday, tempers frayed and fist fights broke out after the video was shown. The video, viewed by relatives and journalists, did not appear to show any corpses.

"Please lift the ship, so we can get the bodies out," a woman who identified herself as the mother of a child called Kang Hyuck said, using a microphone.

Relatives have criticised what they say is the slow response of the government and contradictory information given out by authorities in the early stages of the rescue mission.

CHANCES OF FINDING SURVIVORS "ALMOST ZERO"

President Park Geun-hye was jeered by some when she visited on Thursday. "Park Geun-hye should come here again," Kang Hyuck's mother said.

Three cranes were moved close to the sunken ship on Saturday but were not deployed. Strong tides and rough weather again impeded efforts to get

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