South Korean Ferry Tragedy: As Recovery Efforts Continue, Obama to Mourn Victims
An aerial view shows South Korean ships conducting search and rescue operations, April 20, 2014, for the Sewol, the ferry that sank April 16 off Jindo Island. U.S. sailors and Marines are assisting in the search. Photo: DOD
This morning, Dr. Estés shared with us her heartfelt thoughts on the tragedy of the South Korean ferry that sank April 16 off Jindo Island with 476 people aboard, including 352 high school students, and on that other recent tragedy involving young people, the kidnapping of over 140 young girls by the infamous terrorist group the Boko Haram.
Sadly, it appears that from now on only bodies will be recovered from the ill-fated ferry as brave rescuers continue to reach into more recesses of the submerged hull.
The death toll now stands at 64; with 238 people still missing, most of them students from a school near Seoul.
Bodies are being brought two or three at a time back to Jindo, a southern island close to where the ferry sank.
Estés also mentions the detention and arrest of the captain and members of the crew for “endangerment and in the captain’s case, abandonment of humans in need.”
Today, South Korean President Park Geun-hye personally condemned the conduct of some of the crew of the ferry calling it “akin to murder” and said that those to blame will have to take “criminal and civil” responsibility for their actions, according to the BBC.
As our nation and our military have done time and time again when disasters strike abroad, the U.S. Navy continues to help with the search and recovery operations with the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and its helicopters. A US Navy engineer and master diver were also helping out aboard a South Korean navy ship.
According to Agence France-Presse, the United States is sending a Navy salvage ship, the USNS Safeguard to help South Korea with the recovery of the ferry even as it expects South Korean authorities to issue a formal request for the ship. The USNS Safeguard is being moved from Thailand toward South Korea in anticipation of the request.
The 255-foot USNS Safeguard is equipped with anchors, wires, ropes, salvage buoys and towing gear in order to salvage disabled vessels or retract stranded vessels. Salvage ships such as the USNS Safeguard have been used for a variety of operations over the year such as providing assistance for the Japanese tsunami in 2011, Navy officials said.
It is expected that President Obama will express the nation’s sympathy over the loss of so many people in the ferry tragedy when he visits Seoul later this week after his three-day trip to Japan.
“I can certainly expect that this will be a big part of his trip,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, told reporters. “I’m sure the president will want to find a way to express to those families and to the people of the Republic of Korea how much we support them in this difficult time.”
The Obama team will keep close tabs on how search-and-rescue efforts will unfold in the coming days, added Rhodes.