UK & World News

  • 16 April 2014, 19:31

Ferry Disaster: Parents Hire Own Rescue Boats

Parents of missing teenagers aboard the stricken ferry off the coast of South Korea have been hiring rescue boats to join the search overnight.

Many relatives stared out to sea, huddled in blankets, sobbing, as hopes their loved ones would be found alive faded.

Others expressed their anger, claiming that the rescue operation was botched and choosing instead to go searching themselves.

Nearly 340 of those aboard theSewol ferry are believed to have been from the same high school near the capital Seoul, on their way to Jeju island for a field trip.

Rescue operations went on through the night, under the light of flares, but divers suspended attempts to find survivors inside the submerged ship until daylight.

"My tears have dried up," said a mother in Jindo, a town near the site of the disaster where many families have gathered.

"I am holding on to hope. I hope the government does everything to bring these kids back to their mothers."

At the dockside in Jindo, women sat and stared out at the black, calm sea before them.

The father of one missing child could not bear to wait.

He and 10 other parents paid 61,000 won (35) each to hire a boat to take them to the scene, along with a local reporter and a diver.

"There was no rescue operation going on," he said on his return to Jindo.

"We clearly saw there is none. What they were doing at the time was stopping the oil spill. I'm extremely angry.

"The media says the rescue operation is still going on. It's all a lie. It makes me so furious."

Anger was also aimed at the school, which at one point mistakenly announced that all 338 students and teachers on the field trip had been rescued.

Adding to the misery, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration initially reported that 368 people had been rescued and that around 100 were missing.

It later described those figures as a miscalculation, turning what had at first appeared to be a largely successful rescue operation into a potentially major disaster.

For many parents, the agonising wait began at Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb, where they gathered in the morning after news of the ferry disaster broke.

Park Seong-ho, father of a missing 17-year-old boy, said: "I have to go now.

"It's as if the world is falling apart. I really want to go now to see my son."

Jeong Kyung-mi, mother of another 17-year-old from the school, was more fortunate. She received a text message from her son saying he had been rescued.

"When I heard the news, it felt like my heart had stopped beating," she said.

Parents fought their way on to coaches provided to take them to Jindo, where some were reunited with their children.

Survivors there huddled on the floor of a gymnasium, wrapped in blankets and receiving medical aid.

One woman lay on a bed shaking uncontrollably, while a man across the room wailed loudly as he spoke on his mobile phone.

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