Doomed Ferry Raised to Surface

  • By Gwak Rae-geon

    March 24, 2017 10:24

    The ferry Sewol was finally raised above the surface of the ocean on Thursday, 1,073 days after it sank off the southwest coast of Korea with over 300 mostly teenage passengers on board.

    Shanghai Salvage succeeded in the eight-hour feat of hoisting the ferry above the surface early Thursday morning.

    The ferry lies on its side just the way it was when it sank on April 16, 2014. The hull shows clear signs of deterioration after being trapped at the bottom of the ocean for three years, with the letters "Sewol" largely erased by to the elements.

    This aerial photo shows the ferry Sewol partially lifted above the water on Thursday, as salvage work continues near Jindo, some 472 km southwest of Seoul.

    As salvage efforts picked up speed, a portion of the hull rose 10 m above the surface later in the morning. But then salvage workers encountered an unexpected problem. A 10 m ramp at the rear of the vessel used to load and offload vehicles was discovered to be open. The locking mechanism that holds it closed apparently broke when the ship hit the seafloor.

    That makes it impossible to move the ferry into the cargo bay of a semi-submersible structure that will transport it to dry dock. Salvage workers struggled all night to remove the ramp before the notoriously rough waters off Jindo grow dangerously choppy again at noon on Friday. It finally came loose at around 6:45 a.m.

    The ferry is now being hoisted to 13 m above the surface and five towboats and two barges will tow it 1.7 km away to a point where the current is much slower. It will then be transported upright on to the semi-submersible structure and taken to Mokpo.

    If all goes well, it should be able to reach the dock in 11 to 12 days, and another 15 days will be required to search the inside of the vessel on dry land.

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