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(LEAD) Ferry victims' school stricken with grief

2014/04/24 17:25

ANSAN, South Korea, April 24 (Yonhap) -- Teenage students in school uniforms made way on Thursday for a hearse carrying the body of a fellow female student killed in last week's ferry sinking. The car drove around the campus, giving the girl a final tour of her high school.

The funeral for the girl, surnamed Kim, took place on the same day Danwon High School in Ansan, just south of Seoul, resumed classes after a one-week break following the deadly sinking of the ferry Sewol off South Korea's southwest coast on April 16.

"While the school was closed, I only watched TV following the news because I couldn't focus on studying," a student, surnamed Lee, said as she entered her school. "After the accident, I have been dumbfounded all day long."

   Awaiting the returning students were signs of last week's tragic accident. Pieces of colorful paper posted on the school gate bade farewell to their fellow students and wished for their safe return. Bundles of chrysanthemums, a flower for mourning, were laid at the school entrance.

Students hurried around the campus in silence, making way when the funeral car carrying Kim passed by.

"I have been mostly calm this past week," a student said. "But on my way to school, I became very sad and heartbroken."

  

Pieces of paper and flowers are laid at the entrance of Danwon High School, which resumed classes after a one-week break on April 24, 2014, following the deadly sinking of a ferry carrying hundreds of its students off South Korea's southwest coast. (Yonhap)

Pieces of paper and flowers are laid at the entrance of Danwon High School, which resumed classes after a one-week break on April 24, 2014, following the deadly sinking of a ferry carrying hundreds of its students off South Korea's southwest coast. (Yonhap)

Kim was one of the 325 students from the high school's second-year class who left on a four-day field trip to the southern resort island of Jeju last week.

Less than a day later, on April 16, the overnight ferry ride to Jeju ended in a tragic accident, killing the majority of the students and their teachers on board.

The 6,825-ton ferry capsized and sank off the southeastern island of Jindo, leaving only 174 out of the total 476 passengers aboard the ship alive.

The death toll reached 171 as of Thursday as divers brought bodies out of the sunken ship, with 131 people, likely trapped in the submerged ship, still missing.

At a gymnasium near the school, a temporary memorial altar has been set up by the local government for citizens to pay their respects to the victims.

A total of 13,700 mourners visited the gymnasium altar on Wednesday alone after it was opened to the public that day.

Portraits and nameplates of 48 students and teachers who passed away were displayed at the altar, with those for an additional 14 victims to be added later in the day, including an 18-year-old female student surnamed Jeong.

Jeong's funeral was held in a nearby hospital late Thursday morning. Her mother broke down and burst into tears in front of the picture of her daughter's smiling face when a cup of liquor was offered to the altar in a gesture of respect.

"Please bring her back," the mother screamed into the funeral hall where grief-stricken families and friends wept together.

Funerals for another 13 victims were to be held during the day in nearby hospitals in Ansan. Funeral services for another 23 victims are also to be held on Friday.

The government plans to open a larger altar at a park in Ansan next week at the request of the victims' families.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won also ordered the government to build temporary altars across the nation in places easily accessible to the public through consultations with the victims' families.

pbr@yna.co.kr

(END)

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