Fishermen Rescued Half the Survivors of Ferry Disaster

More video footage released on Tuesday recording the last 21 minutes before the ferry Sewol went under completely shows it tilting 70 degrees on its side, until it sinks below the surface. It was taken by a fisherman starting at 10:04 a.m. on the fateful morning of April 16.

Officials in the South Jeolla provincial government said two fishery patrol boats rescued around 50 passengers from the Sewol, and in collaboration with other private boats that later joined rescue efforts saved another 40 passengers just a moment before the ferry sank completely.

From 10:08 a.m. to 10:19 a.m., fishery patrol boats and other private vessels saved more than half of the 174 passengers who were rescued from the sinking ferry.

The Korea Coast Guard's cutter and three rescue helicopters arrived at the scene 40 minutes before the fishery patrol boats, but the footage shows coast guards rescuing only the captain and crew, who were the first to bolt, while making no attempt to board the capsized ferry and rescue the trapped passengers.

The footage shows that the Korea Coast Guard dispatched only one cutter, one rubber boat and three helicopters, compared to around 30 fishing boats and other private vessels that converged at the scene later to rescue around 90 passengers.

A coast guard said the cutter "was able to reach the scene quickly, since it was just 19.3 km away, while other rescue ships, which were further away, got there at 10:51 a.m., after the Sewol had gone under."

Three divers jumped out of one helicopter that arrived at the scene between 9:27 a.m. and 9:40 a.m. Footage shows the divers helping passengers escape the sinking ferry.

Kwon Jae-joon, a rescue official, said, "When we arrived at around 9:40 a.m., the ferry had already tilted around 70 degrees, and 20 to 30 passengers wearing life vests were either floating in the water or hanging on the rails." Kwon added, "We dropped life boats and rescued around 20 passengers in 40 minutes."

He said the Sewol sank so quickly that there was no more they could do.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 30, 2014 13:12 KST