April 23, 2015 13:07
The government on Wednesday decided to raise the ferry that sank off the southwest coast in April last year.
Public Safety and Security Minister Park In-yong said, "Over the next two months, we are going to choose a domestic or foreign bidder who will raise the body of the ferry. Planning will take another three months, so the operation may start in September."
The recovery will be carried out without changing the current position of the ship, which lies on its side on the seabed 43 m below the surface. The government expects the whole process to take about a year.
The plan is to make 93 holes on the starboard side for chains to be attached and haul the hull closer to the water surface with cranes, and then bring it to shore on a floating dock built in situ.
The maneuver is unprecedented since the hull of sunken wrecks is usually simply cut into pieces, but that could damage the bodies that are still missing or cause them to float away.
Another problem that makes the retrieval process extremely difficult is that currents at the site of the tragedy move fast at a speed of 1.5 to 2.5 m/s, so divers could easily be swept away.
Minister of Oceans and Fisheries Yoo Ki-june pledged thorough preparations to minimize the risk.
Even if operations start in September, not much work can be done from November to February, when northwesterly winds cause high waves, and in July to August, when the area comes under the influence of typhoons. Also the window of opportunity when it is safe for divers to work varies from two to eight hours a day. This could mean the estimated year may not be enough to raise the ship.
Firms from Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, the U. K., and the U.S. are reportedly preparing to bid.
Meanwhile, families of the victims welcomed the decision but said it took too long. They vowed to continue to fight until the last person of the missing victims is found.
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