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2014 brings yet another heartbreaking tragedy, as the South Korean ferry carrying 476 people, predominantly high school students, capsized, and sank en-route to Jeju island.

In what is termed as the worst sea disaster in 21 years, South Korean ferry, the MV Sewol, capsized putting the lives of 476 passengers at stake. The disheartening fact adding to the misery is, of the 476 passengers, 325 were students of Danwon High School. Others onboard were 30 crew members, 15 schoolteachers, and 89 non-student passengers. It was revealed just after the disaster by Lee Gyeon-og, the vice-minister in the Ministry of Security and Public Administration. The students were on their way to Jeju Island for a four-day field trip. The incident took place on 16 April 2014.

Travelling on its usual route, from the port of Incheon, in the north-west to the island resort of Jeju in the southern part, the ship apparently took a sharp left turn that triggered a list before it gradually overturned and sank into the ocean. There are also reports that the sudden left turn led to the shift of the cargo and consequently imbalanced the ship.

The ship was said to have undergone some modification last year and additional passenger cabins were built on the third, fourth, and fifth decks. The government inspectors also approved it as meeting the safety standards. Some investigators even claimed that the ship was carrying three times heavier cargo than the maximum recommended. Therefore, overloading of the ship is seen as a direct cause behind altering the ship's balance and eventually contributing to that calamity.

A total of 174 passengers had been rescued and by May 21 the death toll rose to 288 leaving 16 unaccounted for. Twenty-two crew members survived of which 11 were said to be under police custody for charges of negligence and for procrastinating the rescue operation. Passengers were told by the crew members to remain in the cabin, however, after a while, the captain along with some of the crew members escaped leaving the other passengers helpless. Of this immoral gesture, the President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye remarked, "behavior of the captain and some crew members is beyond understanding and no better than homicide."

In order to search the evidence of any wrongdoing, police raided and searched the offices of 20 companies of the ferry owner, Yoo Byung-un. They were also looking into the possibility of whether the ship’s modification in 2013 has any link to the accident.

Though the search and rescue operation continued, chances of finding any survivors became dim.

WBAMA090614

References: Wikipedia, CNN.com, BBC.com, The Guardian.com
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