Viet Nam News
DONGGEOCHADO — South Korea’s sunken Sewol ferry emerged from the waters Thursday, nearly three years after it went down with the loss of more than 300 lives and dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun-Hye.
Television pictures showed one side of the 6,825-tonne vessel, with deep gashes in its rusted structure, above the waves between two giant salvage barges.
The complex operation -- one of the largest raisings of an entire ship ever attempted -- comes as the third anniversary approaches of one of the country’s worst-ever maritime disasters.
Almost all the dead were schoolchildren and it is thought that nine bodies still unaccounted for may be trapped inside the sunken ship. Raising the ferry intact has been a key demand of the families of the victims.
Several relatives watched the much-anticipated operation unfolding from a boat near the site.
"To see the Sewol again, I can’t describe how I’m feeling right now," said Huh Hong-Hwan, whose 16-year-old daughter was killed in the accident. Her body has not been found.
Huh and his wife have for years maintained a bitter, defiant vigil in Jindo along with a handful of other relatives of missing victims.
"It took so long," Huh said.
Other bereaved family members have kept watch at a camp on a hilltop on Donggeochado -- the nearest island to the site, just 1.5 kilometres away.
Dozens of salvage operators walked over the hull after it came to the surface, television pictures showed.
"Workers are on the Sewol ferry to fasten it to the barge," Seoul’s maritime ministry said in an emailed statement.
About 450 workers are involved in the Herculean efforts to lift the ship, which now weighs between 8,000-8,500 tonnes including the silt piled up inside.
Once the ferry is brought up sufficiently high, it will be moved onto a semi-submersible ship, which will carry it to the port of Mokpo.
"We believe that it will take about 12 to 13 days to lift the ship and move it to Mokpo," said Lee Cheol-Jo, the ministry official in charge of the operation.
The vessel was lying more than 40 metres below the waves off southwestern South Korea and the operation, originally scheduled for last year, had been pushed back several times because of adverse weather. — AFP