April 10, 2017 11:41
Salvage workers on Sunday succeeded in moving the ferry Sewol that sank in April 2014, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said Sunday.
That marks the final stage of the massive salvage operation almost three years after the ship sank off the southwest coast with more than 300 people, mostly teenagers, aboard.
The wreck was raised to the surface and towed into a semi-submersible vessel. Once it reached port, the wreck was propped onto 600 wheeled modular transporters and moved slowly across a ramp to dry land.
But strong waves at one stage almost caused the 17,000-ton ship to lose balance and fall off of the ramp before workers were able to stabilize it. The ministry said the ferry was finally moved onto dry land at 5:30 p.m., and workers struggled until late at night to transport a cradle that had been carrying the wreck ashore.
The families of nine passengers whose bodies remain missing watched the entire process from the port.
Workers will now clean out the hull before they begin searching inside the wreck for the remains of the missing passengers.
The inside has deteriorated far more than expected, posing serious obstacles to the search, which is led by a private company, Korea Salvage.
Around 30 to 40 staff will look for the remains of the missing passengers. Some already entered the ferry on Friday morning and searched one of the passenger areas where students from Danwon High School had been staying during the fateful voyage.
It had filled with debris after the walls and pipes collapsed onto the floor. "At first we couldn't tell what we were looking at," a salvage worker said.
Separately, divers on Sunday began searching for the remains of missing passengers on the ocean floor where the wreck had been sitting. Divers set up an underwater fence around the wreckage before they began hoisting the vessel and will now search the area with shovels and sonar equipment.
The process will take about two months.
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