An Easter Week Disaster: South Korean Ferry Sinks; 49 Dead, 253 Missing
Earlier this week, a ferry in South Korea capsized, then sunk. 49 people have been confirmed dead thus far, and 253 are still missing according to this report from CNN.
While there had initially been hopes that some of the missing might be rescued due to air pockets and the like, hopes are now fading. Worse yet, the South Korean government has not been forthcoming — shades of what’s happened in Malaysia due to the air disaster with MH 370 — and family members are extremely frustrated, to put it mildly.
This report from the Huffington Post shows the frustration of the families in full measure:
But the seeds of distrust were planted Wednesday, the day the ferry sank with 476 people aboard, 323 of them from a single high school in Ansan. . .
The high school initially sent parents text messages saying all of the students had been rescued.
Lee Byung-soo, whose son was aboard the ferry, was relieved by the text. . .
It was only when he arrived at the gymnasium that he realized his son, 15-year-old Lee Seok-joon, had not been saved. “I had to check every picture of the face of the rescued students before I realized that my son was not there,” he said.
People also were quoted in the Huffington Post article as yelling at the divers, who haven’t been able to do as much as they’d like due to poor visibility and other concerns, “Would you have done the same if your own children were in the water?” and “Why did you refuse to take the rescue gear and supplies that foreign countries offered?”
And then, there are these heartbreaking text messages that the high school students sent as the disaster was ongoing, as reported by CBC. Here’s a brief taste of that:
In another set of messages, a father tries to help his child.
“I know the rescue is going on, but try coming out if possible,” he writes.
“No, dad, can’t walk. The hallway is packed with kids, and it’s too tilted,” the student writes.
The passenger’s fate is unknown.
Note that if the ship’s crew had been on the ball, the halls wouldn’t have been filled with people. So perhaps more people could’ve been rescued — or, at minimum, the rescue would’ve been handled efficiently and well, rather than so poorly that people actually felt the need to send their families “goodbye texts.”
But the ship’s crew was not on the ball. Worse, their actions made absolutely no sense whatsoever.
So what have the South Koreans done thus far that does make sense? Well, they’ve arrested the ferry boat’s captain, Lee Joon Seok, and third mate, a woman identified only as Park (along with one other ship member, a technician of some sort); the third mate was the one who actually was at the helm when the ship made what’s being called an “excessive” turn, while the captain is being charged with a number of violations according to the CNN report, most having to do with leaving his boat before all the passengers were either rescued or accounted for.
The oddest thing in all of this was that the Captain was among the very first people to be evacuated from the ferry by nearly every published report. When clearly, his duty was to get those passengers safely off the ferry — and he absolutely, positively, should not have left the ferry until every single last one of them was off, or every single last one of them was confirmed as deceased.
That’s what’s supposed to happen.
But it didn’t happen here. The families of the victims are furious — and rightfully so.
How in the world could something this awful happen?
So far, there are no good answers to that. But there is one very small ray of sunlight in that Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu has donated $100,000 to help those affected by the ferry disaster according to TMZ.
You see, Ryu is Korean. He has said publicly that he has a “heavy heart,” and he wanted to do something tangible that would help his fellow countrymen.
And he did so right away.
But that’s the only good thing that’s come out of this particular ferry disaster thus far . . . and while there’s always hope that a few more people may be rescued alive due to perhaps finding air pockets (as this has been known to happen in other sea rescues, why not hope for it here as well?), right now this seems to be adding up to yet another disaster.
During Easter week.
And that’s just wrong . . . especially as this didn’t have to happen.