May 12, 2014 11:48
Winds of up to 14 m/s and 3m high waves halted the search for victims of the ferry disaster off the southwest coast over the weekend.
A barge tethered at the site to support rescue divers was pounded by high waves, prompting all but 20 of them to be evacuated to dry land while the rest remained to tend to the equipment.
Around 19 Navy ships remained at sea near the site of the accident, but smaller vessels sought shelter at nearby islands. Divers have been unable to conduct search operations since Saturday morning.
Government officials had hoped search operations would lead to much-awaited progress in finding the remaining victims. There are now fears that search operations will continue past this week, which marks a month after the tragic sinking.
Meanwhile the ferry is starting to disintegrate. Navy rescue worker Kim Jin-hwang said partitions in four areas of the sunken ship have weakened under the weight of water pressure as the ship lies on its side at the bottom of the ocean. The lives of divers could be at risk should the partitions collapse.
But search officials say they hope to wrap up operations by the middle of this month.
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