Tag Archives: ship

US Warship Headed To Yemen Waters To Block Iran Weapons

US Warship Headed To Yemen Waters To Block Iran Weapons

By  Lolita C. Baldor, AP

A helicopter takes off from a Jinggangshan warship to search the waters suspected to be the site of the missing Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.   STRINGER/CHINA/REUTERS
A helicopter takes off from a warship.

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a stepped-up response to Iranian backing of Shiite rebels in Yemen, the Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is steaming toward the waters off Yemen to beef up security and join other American ships that are prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels.

The deployment comes after a U.N. Security Council resolution approved last week imposed an arms embargo on leaders of the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels. The resolution passed in a 14-0 vote with Russia abstaining.

Navy officials said Monday that the Roosevelt was moving through the Arabian Sea. A massive ship that carries F/A-18 fighter jets, the Roosevelt is seen more of a deterrent and show of force in the region.

The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea in response to reports that a convoy of about eight Iranian ships is heading toward Yemen and possibly carrying arms for the Houthis. Navy officials said there are about nine U.S. warships in the region, including cruisers and destroyers carrying teams that can board and search other vessels.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ship movement on the record.

Saudi Arabia and several of its allies, mainly Gulf Arab countries, have been trying to drive back the rebels, who seized the capital of Sanaa in September and have overrun many other northern provinces with the help of security forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The U.S. supports the Saudi campaign.

Western governments and Sunni Arab countries say the Houthis get their arms from Iran. Tehran and the rebels deny that, although the Islamic Republic has provided political and humanitarian support to the Shiite group.

The U.S. has been providing logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi coalition launching airstrikes against the Houthis. That air campaign is now in its fourth week, and the U.S. has also begun refueling coalition aircraft involved in the conflict.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest would not comment specifically on any Navy movements in Yemeni waters, but said the U.S. has concerns about Iran’s “continued support for the Houthis.

“We have seen evidence that the Iranians are supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen. That support will only contribute to greater violence in that country. These are exactly the kind of destabilizing activities that we have in mind when we raise concerns about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East.”

He said, “The Iranians are acutely aware of our concerns for their continued support of the Houthis by sending them large shipments of weapons.”

The expanded U.S. Navy activity in the region comes at a sensitive time, as the U.S. and six world powers have reached a framework deal with Iran to control its nuclear program. Since the preliminary deal with reached on April 2, Iran and the U.S. have been disputing the details of the deal. And on Monday, a lawyer for Tehran-based Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian said Tehran had charged Rezaian with espionage and three other crimes. The Obama administration dismisses the charges as “absurd.”

The U.S. Navy generally conducts consensual boardings of ships when needed, including to combat piracy around Africa and the region. So far, however, U.S. naval personnel have not boarded any Iranian vessels since the Yemen conflict began.

Officials said it’s too soon to speculate on what the Navy ships may do as the Iranian convoy approaches, including whether Iran would consent to a boarding request, and what actions the Navy would take if its request was refused.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been pushed to the brink of collapse by ground fighting and the Saudi-led airstrikes in support of current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia. Observers say the fighting in the strategic Mideast nation is taking on the appearance of a proxy war between Iran, the Shiite powerhouse backing the Houthis, and Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia.

Cargo ship off Greece issues distress call indicating armed people on board

Cargo ship off Greece issues distress call indicating armed people on board

FoxNews.com

Oil tanker ship ocean cargo

A cargo ship thought to be carrying hundreds of migrants near Greece sent out a distress call Tuesday that indicated armed people were on the ship, Reuters reported, citing Greek television.

The ship was identified in reports as the Blue Sky M, which sails under the Moldovan flag.

“Helicopters are heading toward the area, but there are no more details now,” a ministry official told The Wall Street Journal.

Roy Paul, the program director at the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Center, told a local news station that this apparent hijacking is unlike others in recent memory.

“Usually we deal with cases off the coast of Somalia to hold for ransom. This is in European waters. It’s totally different.”

Paul also questioned the motive behind the attack.

“Where is the financial gain? No-one’s going to pay ransom for illegal immigrants,” he said.

Greek officials said a Greek frigate that was in the area and a navy helicopter are heading to the area. The ship is believed to be carrying about 600 migrants.

The call comes two days after a Greek passenger ferry with more than 400 people on board caught fire in the same area, leading to a massive rescue operation by Italian and Greek coast guard and military officials. At least 10 people died in that incident, while more than 400 were rescued. Authorities are searching for potential missing passengers from the Norman Atlantic ferry.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

5 dead on blazing Greek ferry; 473 survivors rescued

5 dead on blazing Greek ferry; 473 survivors rescued

Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

As rescued passengers receive medical care in Brindisi, the stricken car ferry that caught fire off the Greek coast is being towed to Italy as hundreds still await airlift. Gavino Garay reports. Video provided by ReutersNewslook

Greece ferry disaster

Five people aboard a Greek ferry that caught fire in the storm-tossed Adriatic died but the remaining 473 survivors were evacuated safely Monday morning, according to Italian authorities.

Italian premier Matteo Renzi said only the captain and 4 Italian rescuers remained on the stricken vessels, according to the Associated Press. He said they would remain on the ferry to try to hook it up to a tug boat.

Four bodies were found on the ferry early Monday and a fifth person, a Greek passenger, died after tumbling into the water during the rescue operation.

Italian authorities said the remaining 473 people on board were removed in a high-risk operation hampered by stormy seas and high winds, Sky News and the BBC report.

Renzi suggested there could be a discrepancy between the number of names listed on the ship’s manifest and the actual number on board, possibly because of illegal migration, according to Sky News.

The fire broke out on a card deck on board the Norman Atlantic before dawn Sunday as it sailed from Greece toward Italy.

Earlier Monday, a group of 49 exhausted people arrived at the Italian port of Bari after they were rescued from the Greek ferry.

At least one person was killed in the precarious rescue operation and two others were injured as Italian and Greek ships and helicopters worked through the night plucking passengers off the stricken vessel and bringing them to safety aboard the 10 or so mercantile boats nearby that were summoned to help.

Most evacuees were to be brought to shore later after the rescue was completed, Greek officials said, but one of the cargo ships, the Spirit of Piraeus, left ahead of the pack. After being forced by the weather to abandon plans to dock in the port of Brindisi, the ship reached Bari just after 7:30 a.m. (1.30 a.m. ET) Monday with 49 survivors aboard. The first to disembark was an injured man wrapped in a yellow striped blanket and wearing bandages around his bare feet, helped down the ship’s ladder by two rescue workers.

Other evacuees, many wrapped in blankets, made their way gingerly down the ladder with assistance, some thrusting their hands in a victory sign as they waited their turn. Among them were four children. TV crews and relatives gathered on the docks below in near silence.

The evacuees then boarded bright red fire department buses. Officials have said hotels have been booked for them around town.

The fire broke out before dawn Sunday on a car deck of the Italian-flagged Norman Atlantic, carrying 422 passengers and 56 crew members. All day and night, passengers huddled on the vessel’s upper decks, pelted by rain and hail and struggling to breathe through the thick smoke.

While the Spirit of Piraeus’ arrival was the first big group of evacuees to be brought ashore, other survivors had been taken to southern Italian hospitals in smaller numbers in the hours immediately after the rescue operation got underway. Several were treated for hypothermia, some for mild carbon monoxide poisoning and one woman suffered a fractured pelvis, officials said.

Dr. Raffaele Montinaro at the hospital in Lecce said the three children taken there were in “excellent” condition, and emergency room doctor Antonio Palumbo said a pregnant woman was also in good condition.

“For sure they are scared,” said Eligio Rocco Catamo, manager of the Copertino hospital. “But I should say that I was impressed by the calm and the serenity they are showing.”

A local convent was housing survivors who were released from the hospital.

A ferry passenger disembarks from the cargo ship.
A ferry passenger disembarks from the cargo ship the Spirit of  Helicopters rescued passengers throughout the night, completing 34 sorties with winds over 40 knots (46 mph). The Greek coast guard said seven people had been airlifted from the ferry to Corfu.

“Notwithstanding the weather and the darkness, which is another factor, we persisted throughout the entire night,” Italian coast guard Admiral Giovanni Pettorino told Sky TG24.

Those remaining on board were given thermal blankets and found places to wait protected from the elements “even if the conditions remain very difficult,” Pettorino said.

Italian navy Capt. Riccardo Rizzotto said the ultimate destination of the stricken ferry was unclear. Some Italian officials said it would likely be towed to an Italian port, even though it was currently closer to Albania.

“The priority now is to rescue the crew and passengers as quickly as possible,” Rizzotto said.

The Italian Navy said the man who died and his injured wife were transported by helicopter to the southern Italian city of Brindisi. It was unclear how the death and injury occurred, but the Greek Coast Guard said the pair — both Greek passengers — were found in a lifeboat rescue chute.

Teodora Douli, 56, told the ANSA news agency that her 62-year-old Greek husband may have hit his head as he fell. “I tried to save him but I couldn’t,” she said.

Some 50 passengers rescued from a stricken car ferry which caught fire off the coast of Greece, arrive in Italy’s southern port city of Bari, but more than 200 remain on board. Rough Cut (No Reporter Narration). Video provided by Reuters Newslook

The second injury was to a member of the Italian military involved in the rescue operation, Pettorino said.

Pettorino said two Italian tugs tried to attach themselves to the ferry in the evening, but were frustrated by the thick smoke. Eventually the tugs managed to attach the line to stabilize the ferry, ANSA reported.

Passengers described scenes of terror and chaos when the fire broke out as they slept in their cabins.

“They called first on women and children to be evacuated from the ship,” Vassiliki Tavrizelou, who was rescued along with her 2-year-old daughter, told The Associated Press.

Dotty Channing-Williams, mother of British ferry passenger Nick Channing-Williams, said she had managed to speak to her son before he and his Greek fiancee were airlifted to safety. She said she had complained to her son that there was no information available for families.

“He said ‘Well, it’s an awful lot worse for us because we’re actually standing out here in the pouring rain, and thunder and lightning, and we really just don’t know exactly what’s going to happen.'”

Hundreds trapped as ferry burns in heavy seas off Greece

Hundreds trapped as ferry burns in heavy seas off Greece

burning ship ferry passenger

* Norman Atlantic carrying close to 500 passengers and crew

* Coastguard says 150 saved

* Ship sent distress signal after fire started on lower deck

* Passengers plead for help as high winds, seas hamper rescue

* Minister says “one of the most complicated rescues we have done”

 

ATHENS, Dec 28 (Reuters) – Hundreds of passengers were trapped on a burning car ferry off Greece on Sunday, pleading to be rescued by a flotilla of nearby ships that battled storm conditions in open water to try to reach them.

The Greek coastguard said 150 people had been saved from the Italian-registered Norman Atlantic, which was carrying almost 500 passengers and crew when it sent a distress signal after fire broke out on its lower deck.

As high winds and rough seas impeded efforts by other ships to rescue those still on board, it was unclear whether there had been casualties or if any passengers were in the water.

“The ship is still on fire, the floor is burning,” passenger George Styliaras told Greek TV by telephone, adding that smoke was making it difficult to breathe. “We don’t know how long we can hold on.”

Cold winter temperatures would make survival in the sea difficult unless rescue came quickly.

Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis said the combination of very bad weather, with winds of up to 55 miles (88 kilometres) per hour and the fire, made the operation extremely complicated.

“We are doing everything we can to save those on board and no one, no one will be left helpless in this tough situation,” he told reporters. “It is one of the most complicated rescue operations that we have ever done.”

Coastguard officials said the Norman Atlantic, which was also carrying more than 200 vehicles, was 44 nautical miles northwest of the island of Corfu when it radioed for help.

Coastguard spokesman Nikos Lagkadianos said 150 people were on a rescue boat, of whom 42 had been successfully transferred to the container ship Spirit of Piraeus. Rough seas made it difficult for the rescue boat to approach the ship.

A journalist who was aboard Cruise Europa, a nearby cruise ship, said he could see passengers on the upper deck of the Norman Atlantic clinging to the railings as they waited for rescue.

INTERNATIONAL RESCUE EFFORT

A coastguard official said nearby passenger and container ships were attempting to form a ring around the burning vessel to try to form a windbreak to allow small rescue boats to approach but rough seas made the manoeuvre difficult.

Varvitsiotis said there were 478 passengers and crew aboard the ship, more than the 466 originally reported. Of those, he said 268 were Greek, while a foreign ministry official said there were also passengers from several other countries including Germany, Italy, Austria, Turkey, France and the Netherlands. Many appeared to be truck drivers.

One Greek passenger told a television reporter that language differences hindered communication between passengers and crew.

While rescue vessels and aircraft had been dispatched to the scene, early rescue work was being coordinated from nearby passenger and cargo ships. A fire-fighting vessel was trying to approach the ferry.

Tug boats were being sent from both Greece and Italy but would take some time before arriving.

The fire broke out in the lower deck garage of the vessel but there were differing accounts of when it started. Initial reports said the fire began at around 6.00 a.m. local time (0400 GMT) but Italian officials put the time at 4.30 a.m.

Officials said both Italian and Albanian authorities were taking part in the operation, which was being conducted in extremely difficult conditions with strong winds, heavy seas and very cold temperatures.

The Norman Atlantic is a 26,900-tonne, roll-on roll-off ferry chartered by Greek ferry company ANEK, the coastguard said. According to marine traffic data, it was built in 2009 and previously operated in Italy. (Additional reporting by Gavin Jones in Rome; Writing by James Mackenzie; editing by John Stonestreet)

 

Captain in Korean ferry disaster sentenced to 36 years

Captain in Korean ferry disaster sentenced to 36 years

Sewol ferry captain Lee Jun-Seok, third from the left, sits with other crew members inside a court room at the start of the verdict proceedings in Gwangju-city, South Korea, on Nov. 11, 2014.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – A South Korean court on Tuesday handed a 36-year prison sentence to the captain of a sunken ferry, saying he was professionally negligent and abandoned his passengers during the disaster in April that killed more than 300 people.

The chief engineer got 30 years, and 13 other crewmembers were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison, Yonhap news agency and other South Korean media reported, citing the Gwangju District Court in southern South Korea.

Capt. Lee Joon Seok and three other key crewmembers were earlier indicted by prosecutors on homicide and other charges. Eleven others faced less serious charges.

Lee has apologized for abandoning the passengers but said he didn’t know his action would lead to so many deaths.

Front tip of ferry
Front tip of ferry

The widely vilified Lee could have received a death sentence for the homicide charges. South Korea hasn’t executed anyone since late 1997, though its courts occasionally issue the punishment.

Prosecutors and the crewmembers have one week to appeal, according to the court.

Court officials didn’t immediately answer calls seeking confirmation.


Related:  Recap on the Ferry Disaster


The 15 crewmembers tasked with navigating the ferry Sewol have faced scathing public criticism because they escaped the sinking ship while many of their passengers were still trapped inside. A total of 476 people were aboard the ship and only 172 were rescued. Most of the dead were teenage students traveling to a resort island on a school trip.

Nearly seven months after the sinking, 295 bodies have been recovered, but nine are still missing. South Korean officials said Tuesday they have ended searches for the missing because there was only a remote chance of finding more bodies while worries have grown over the safety of divers. Two civilian divers have died after falling unconscious during searches.

“As our loved ones remain trapped in the cold waters, this decision is unbearably painful for us. But we requested that the search operations be stopped” because of safety concerns, Min Dong-im, 36, the wife of a missing teacher, tearfully said at a televised news conference.

The Sewol’s sinking, one of the country’s deadliest disasters in decades, led to widespread national grief and soul-searching. Authorities blamed overloaded cargo, improper storage, untimely recuse efforts and corruption by the ship’s owners that prevented enough spending on safety, along with the crewmembers’ behavior.

Last Friday, South Korean lawmakers approved plans to disband the coast guard and transfer its responsibilities to other government agencies. The coast guard was criticized for unprofessional, slow rescue efforts. Also last week, three relatives of the ship’s billionaire owner were sentenced to up to three years in prison, about four months after the tycoon was found dead after he fled the law.

Prosecutors have accused the crewmembers of tacitly colluding to abandon the ship even though they knew that passengers would be trapped and killed after it sank. The defense in the trial has denied any collusion among the crewmembers, saying they were confused, injured and panicked.

Many student survivors have said they were repeatedly ordered over a loudspeaker to stay on the sinking ship and that they didn’t remember any evacuation order being given before they helped each other flee the vessel.

Lee has said he issued an evacuation order for passengers. But he initially told reporters days after his arrest that he withheld the evacuation order because rescuers had yet to arrive and he feared for the passengers’ safety in the cold, swift waters.

South Korea has spent months debating public safety issues that critics say were largely ignored while the country rose to an Asian economic power in the decades after the 1950-53 Korean War. But there have been a series of smaller deadly accidents since the sinking. In mid-October, for instance, 16 people watching an outdoor pop concert fell 60 feet to their deaths when a ventilation grate they were standing on collapsed.

Centuries-old ship at NYC ground zero likely from Philadelphia

Centuries-old ship at NYC ground zero likely from Philadelphia

by Laura Ly,CNN

World Trade Center ancient ship found under rubble
In July 2010, a pair of archeologists begin dismantling the remains of a wooden ship that was found at the World Trade Center construction site in New York. The hull of the ship has been traced back to colonial-era Philadelphia, according to researchers at the Tree Ring Research Laboratory at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.
Ship found at World Trade Center site
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Scientists say hull found at the WTC site likely originated from a forest in the Philadelphia area
  • Vessel likely built around 1773 and believed to have been a “Hudson River Sloop” ship
  • Scientists analyzed and compared tree-rings on wood from the ship with wood samples to determine probable age
  • Ship’s hull was found by archeologists at ground zero site in July 2010

New York (CNN) — For more than 200 years, it lay quietly hidden beneath New York City’s World Trade Center, concealed from view.

Now, four years after its discovery, scientists say they’ve solved the mystery of the ship hull found in the wreckage of the former World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.

world trade center

The hull, originally found by archeologists monitoring the site’s excavation, has been traced back to colonial-era Philadelphia, according to researchers at the Tree Ring Research Laboratory at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

“An old growth forest in the Philadelphia area supplied the white oak used in the ship’s frame and … the trees were probably cut in 1773 or so — a few years before the bloody war that established America’s independence from Britain,” according to a statement from the scientists. Researchers used a process known as “dendroprovenancing” to determine the hull’s origins, whereby tree rings from wood samples were analyzed and referenced against several other historical tree chronologies.

“Trees respond to climate each year and that pattern of rings created within the tree produces a signature for that species in a forest or region,” said Neil Pederson, a research scientist on the study. “We took oak samples from the World Trade Center vessel and made a record of growth through time. We then compared it to independent records of white oak that we had.”

Researchers looked at oak chronologies from Boston through Virginia, but their analysis found that the samples had the greatest compatibility with trees in eastern Pennsylvania, particularly in the Philadelphia area dating in the latter part of the 18th century.

Scientists also found that the same kind of oak trees used to build the ship were also likely used to build Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the study said.

The ship was found approximately 6.7 meters, or nearly 22 feet below ground, just south of where the World Trade Center towers stood before they were toppled in the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. It was not detected during earlier construction.

“It’s such an intense site already based on its recent history, so to be in the midst of this urban, modern, very fraught location, and then to be sitting on what was a river bottom, with clams and fish, and the smell of low tide, was really an amazing juxtaposition,” said Molly McDonald, an archeologist with the environmental consulting firm AKRF, who was among those who discovered the ship’s hull in the wreckage in 2010.

Archeologists typically perform basic research to determine whether a construction site could be sensitive for archeological reasons, said McDonald. She and her colleagues had been at Ground Zero to monitor construction for any potential finds.

“Early one morning, we were monitoring and suddenly saw this curved timber come up,” she recalled. “It was clear to me that it was part of a ship, so we stopped the backhoes and starting hand digging.”

The ship has been tentatively identified as a Hudson River Sloop, which researchers say was designed by the Dutch to carry passengers and cargo over the river’s shallow, rocky water.

After being in use for 20 to 30 years, the ship is believed to have sailed to lower Manhattan, where it was eventually sunk, either deliberately or accidentally, and ultimately buried by trash and other fill materials that was purposefully used to extend Manhattan’s shoreline.

“Abundant fill materials such as rocks, earth, and refuse were placed behind wooden barriers or within wood structures to create new land. Earlier wharfs and abandoned merchant ships were often a component of the fill in newly constructed land,” according to the study.

The majority of the ship remains are currently being stored at Texas A&M University, said Jason Conwall, spokesman for Empire State Development. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, created in the aftermath of 9/11 to help plan the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan, is a subsidiary of Empire State Development, owns the ship.

“We’re working on potential options for the future which could potentially include preservation of the ship, but right now, set plans are still being determined,” Conwell said.

For Pederson and fellow researchers, the ship’s discovery and the investigation that followed has provided data that may prove useful for further research.

“The beauty of dendrochronology is that we can actually use those same samples to understand past climate change and the ecology of forests. The response to our work has been really big, bigger than we expected,” Pederson said.

“For us, we have this really rich data set from the World Trade Center ship that we can use for future work. In a way, the ship lives on.”

Drone Crashes Into US Navy Ship off CA Coast

Drone Crashes Into US Navy Ship off CA Coast

by UAS Vision

USS Chancellorsville Navy ship drone damage
A drone crash that damaged USS Chancellorsville and injured two sailors was caused by a malfunctioning control system and human error, according to a U.S. Navy report unclassified this week.
BQM-74 Targeting Drone
BQM-74 Targeting Drone

A 13-foot, BQM-74 series unmanned drone struck the guided missile cruiser’s hull off the coast of Point Mugu as the ship was conducting training exercises on Nov. 16, causing a fire inside and minor burns to two people on board.

The redacted Navy report says equipment malfunctions were the main cause of the crash. Leading up to the strike, a target control team at Point Mugu launched the drone directly at the vessel to test its ability to defend its crew against enemy missiles.

The team then ordered the drone to turn away from the ship – a command the system ignored.

As the drone continued on its course toward USS Chancellorsville, personnel on board failed to issue a “rogue drone” alert and ignored a recommendation by the ship’s weapons system to fire on the approaching aircraft.

Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. wrote in his report that virtually everyone involved in the exercise believed the chances of a drone hitting the ship were extremely remote, so they focused on targeting and data instead of the safety concerns.

“This false confidence in the system adversely affected the time it took to both recognize and act on the problem,” Harris wrote.

He said both the Point Mugu target control team and the Chancellorsville leadership had chances to prevent the mishap and failed to do so.

Those on land knew the drone control system had failed or had performed incorrectly several times that day, yet they decided to forge ahead with the launch and did not let those on the Chancellorsville know about the problems, according to Harris’ report.

“I question this control team’s ability to continue to adequately service Pacific Fleet ships,” wrote Harris.

The admiral also decided to take administrative actions against the ship’s commanding officer, tactical action officer, anti-air warfare coordinator and combat system coordinator.

Harris rebuked the commanding officer for failing to “do everything he could and should have done; he failed to use the full range of tools available to him to protect his ship.”

Nevertheless, Harris commended the crew for their response to the fire that grew after the drone punched a 3-foot hole into the cruiser’s hull.

After the strike, USS Chancellorsville was docked at Naval Base San Diego to undergo repairs, which took about six months and $30 million, according to a Navy Times report.

South Korean divers find 48 bodies in one room

South Korean divers find 48 bodies in one room on sunken ferry

Divers searching a sunken passenger ferry off South Korea found 48 bodies in a single room on the vessel meant to accommodate 38 people, officials say.

Sewol Ferry sinking
Sewol Ferry sinking

The group was crammed into a dormitory and all were wearing lifejackets, a South Korean Navy officer said.

Some 183 bodies have been recovered from the Sewol, but scores of people are missing, presumed drowned.

The head of the operation to retrieve bodies said on Friday he had “no idea” how long the ship search would take.

Related:  See Complete Account of Sunken Ferry

There were 476 people on board, with many trapped inside as the ferry listed and sank within two hours of distress signals being sent. A total of 174 passengers were rescued.

He said one group had found the single dormitory room filled with the bodies of 48 students wearing lifejackets. The presence of so many victims in the cabin suggested many had run into the room when the ship tilted, correspondents said.

“It’s very stressful,” Kim said, adding that the divers were all too aware of criticism over the speed of the search.

Retrieving the bodies was far harder than finding them, he said, with divers unable to spend much longer than 10 minutes inside the ship at a time.

“Just imagine a room that is flipped,” one of the divers told the Associated Press news agency. “Everything is floating around, and it’s hard to know exactly where they are.”

Sunken Ferry
Sunken Ferry

Officials said rescuers are retrieving around 30 bodies a day but the bereaved families have demanded that all remaining bodies are removed from the ferry before the weekend.

Search officials said just 35 of the 111 rooms had been searched so far.

The government says it is “mobilising all available resources” towards the rescue effort but bad weather and stronger currents due on Saturday and Sunday are expected to hamper their efforts.

Prosecutors are said to be investigating whether modifications made to the ferry made it more unstable.

Factors under consideration include a turn made around the time the ship began to list, as well as wind, ocean currents and the freight it was carrying.

Reports have emerged indicating that the ship’s sleeping cabins were refitted some time between 2012 and 2013, which experts say may have inadvertently affected the balance of the boat.

Investigators on Friday said that life rafts and escape chutes on a sister ship to a sunken ferry were not working properly.

The ferry’s captain and 10 crew members have been arrested on charges ranging from criminal negligence to abandoning passengers.

Prosecutors have also raided several businesses affiliated with the ferry operator, the Chonghaejin Marine Company, as part of an overall probe into corrupt management.

South Korean Ferry Recap

South Korean Ferry Recap

South Korean ferry course
Ships course

On April 16th a ferry with 459 passengers and 14 crew members was headed to the Jeju Island a South Korean Island off the coast of South Korea.  Of the 459 passengers roughly 300 were high school students headed for a 4 day excursion to the island.

 

That’s when tragedy struck.

Sewol Ferry sinking

 

Front tip of ferry
Front tip of ferry

Around 9am something catastrophic happened on that ship.  A “loud explosion.” By 10:20am, an hour 20 minutes later,  the ship had completely capsized with only the front of the bottom of the ship sticking out of the water.  By 9:30a the first rescue ships had arrived and the ship was listing at 60 degrees.

South Korean ship timeline
Ship Timeline (click to enlarge)

As of April 20th here is the accounting of the 473 passengers and crew:

  • 174 rescued
  • 253 unaccounted for
  • 46 confirmed dead
  • Total: 473 persons

Ship Evacuation:
So, with almost 1.5 hours before the ship capsized, why are so many still unaccounted for and presumed dead?  This is still unclear.  From the various sources including the crew and the surviving passengers, the passengers were told to stay onboard.  Then when the ship listed it was likely impossible to walk around the ship. (See videos below).

Rescuing passengers
Rescuing passengers

The crew likely didn’t know the extent of the damage so telling passengers to get into the water was dangerous due to the cold temperatures and the strong currents.

Only a few lifeboats were deployed with around 45 still onboard when the ship sank.  When they realized the ship was doomed, it was likely to late to get people and boats into the water.  The ship likely just tilted, listed quickly and this was the time people realized the impending sinking of the ship.

“Passengers couldn’t board lifeboats as the ferry has listed too much” a crew member.

The Cause:
The cause of the accident is still undetermined and under investigation.  There are several theories but we do know that passengers heard a “loud bang” just before ship started sinking.

Possible causes:

  • Hit something underwater
  • On board explosion
  • External explosion

A retired Coast Guard Captain said “It most likely struck something in the water.  The speed with which the ferry began to list and then rollover suggests significant damage.”  Initial reports said the ship may have drifted off course when it went through thick fog.  If they hit something, they would have had to been out of the channel experts say.

Sunken Ferry
Sunken Ferry

However, several different maritime agencies said “there was no huge difference between their planned route and the actual chart track.” This ship when it came to rest was in the channel and in deep water. Deep enough that this huge ship is now completely underwater. Normally 70% or more of a floating ship is above water. So if the water were shallow enough to strike something under water, when it overturned it would not have completely sank.

Experts also say a possible engine and/or fuel explosion could have happened.  However, “but that alone wouldn’t have accounted for the sinking quickly.  It was probably something else that happened.”

The only likely cause of an external explosion would be a man-made device such as a bomb attached to the side or even a torpedo.  This too seems like a remote possibility.   North and South Korea are bitter enemies.  There has been recent military fire between the two countries (see North Korean fires at US, South Korean ships).  It appears the media and officials are avoiding this topic of a man-made explosion as a possibility.

The Aftermath:
The Third Mate (Third Officer) was controlling the ship for his first time through these waters. He was 25 years old with very little experience (6 months).   The Captain is 68 and was not on the bridge at the time of the accident.

Ship organizational structure
Ship Org Chart

The captain, third mate, and one of the three helmsman have all been arrested.

The captain has been charged with violating various seaman’s laws: abandoning ship, negligence, causing bodily injury, not seeking rescue from other ships.

“Pretty much every law, rule, regulation and standard throughout the world says that yes, the captain must stay with the ship until all personnel are safely off of the ship, certainly passengers.” said a maritime attorney Jack Hickey.

The captain had plotted the course through the narrow passage then left the helmsman at the helm while the captain when to his room.  The charge is that the ship did not slow down while sailing through the narrow route and it made a turn excessively sharp.  The helmsman states she did not make a sharp turn but “the steering turned much more than usual.

Videos:

Raw rescue footage:

Survivors tell of panic on board:

Bodies recovered: