UK & World News

  • 24 April 2014, 19:15

South Korea Ferry: Families Attack Coastguard

Relatives of missing victims of the South Korea ferry disaster have forced their way into the office of the coastguard and attacked its Deputy Director, Choi Sang-Hwan.

The furious families accused him of overstating the scale of the recovery operation, claiming what they saw during a boat trip to the disaster area did not match his description of events.

Some 20 relatives pulled him outside and ripped his shirt before punching and slapping him around the face and neck.

Choi was held until other officials arrived who were then subjected to questioning on the recovery effort.

Some parents of the mostly teenage victims of the ferry disaster have also demanded post-mortem examinations that might show if their children had been alive inside the submerged vessel and only died because the emergency response was so slow.

The events came as prosecutorsraided the offices of South Korea's shipping watchdog and have begun probing the assets of the operator of the sunken ferry.

Investigators are also searching the offices of some 20 companies affiliated to the operator,Cheonghaejin Marine Ltd.

The ship capsized off the coast of South Korea with 476 passengers and crew on board, some 300 of whom drowned or who are missing and presumed dead.

"The objective was to investigate malpractices and corruption in the entire shipping industry," Song In-taek, of the Incheon District Prosecution Service, told reporters.

Prosecutors have also raided the home of Yoo Byung-un, the head of a family that owns the company, and are looking into the assets of Yoo's family for any indications of fraud.

The move widens a criminal investigation which has seen the ferry's captain Lee Joon-Seok and six crew members arrested on suspicion of violating maritime law which requires crew to ensure passenger safety before abandoning ship.

On Thursday, four crew members, including the ship's engineer, were paraded on South Korean television with their heads bowed.

The engineer has told investigators he was not aware of any problems when the ship ran into trouble, following reports the ferry did not take on sufficient ballast to counter its cargo weight.

"I did not see any signs. There were no problems," he said when asked by investigators if there were any technical issues with the engine or the ship's ballast tanks.

The engineer said he and six other crew members who were on the third deck had abandoned ship "right before it sank".

Another member wept and said she was "very sorry" for the families of the victims and the missing.

"What I did was really wrong. I am sorry," she said.

Diving teams are still searching the sunken vessel in pitch black conditions for the remaining bodies of those on board.

Meanwhile, the boy who first raised the alarm that the ferry was sinking has been found drowned in the wreckage of the vessel, his parents believe.

His parents said they had seen his body and clothes and identified his body, but he has not been formally identified with a DNA test.

Advertisement