July 16, 2014 11:18
The search continues for 11 missing victims of the April 16 ferry disaster off the southwest coast. Divers are focusing on the one remaining compartment that has not been searched yet, which is capable of housing 28 passengers.
A spokesman for the search team said debris and obstacles piled up in the corridor leading to the compartment have made it impossible to approach it so far.
Recue workers believe at least one missing passenger is trapped in there and they will "try everything" to get inside, even if it means cutting through the walls, the spokesman added.
Navy, coast guard and civilian divers are taking turns searching through the 110 compartments that have already been inspected.
The 11 missing passengers include five teenagers and two teachers from Danwon High School in Ansan south of Seoul, one crew and three other passengers. The last body to be found was a 17-year-old girl on June 24.
The search effort is likely to get more difficult with the onset of monsoon rains on Wednesday, while mud and sludge increasingly inundate the interior of the vessel.
The ferry tragedy set new records in the history of underwater rescue efforts in Korea. A total of 39,904 divers have been deployed in the search operation along with 13,210 boats and 2,002 aircraft. Divers have entered the sunken vessel 1,717 times, while all kinds of equipment had been mobilized including a diving bell.
Just last week, a team of American divers equipped with re-breather apparatuses were brought in, but they were even unable to enter the water due to safety concerns and had to leave with empty hands.
Hwang Dae-shik, head of the Maritime Rescue and Salvage Association said, "We probably deployed all the known technology in the world."
Search workers have vowed to continue looking until the final missing passenger is found, but divers are showing the signs of fatigue. So far, 89 divers have been injured in the search operation.
One diver at the scene of the tragedy said, "We've tried pretty much everything. We understand the feelings of the victims' families, but sadly the search is proving too difficult."
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