Shipwreck area may be declared special disaster zone
SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- The government is considering designating the southeastern town of Jindo and coastal areas nearby as a special disaster zone to extend speedy and full-scale support for the victims of a deadly ship sinking, officials said Thursday.
The 6,325-ton ferry Sewol went under off the coast of Jindo a day earlier en route from the western port city of Incheon to the southern resort island of Jeju, killing at least nine out of 475 passengers on board.
The death toll is feared to rise, as 287 others, mostly high schoolers on a school trip, remained unaccounted for as of 2 p.m. Thursday.
Seen above is the capsized ferry Sewol that sank off the sourthern coast of South Korea on April 16, 2014. (Yonhap)
"The government is mulling declaring Jindo Island and the offshore areas as a special disaster zone to supply the budget necessary for rescue operations and to better care for the victims," said an official of the Ministry of the Security and Public Administration.
A special zone would allow for speedy administrative, financial and medical assistance in recovery efforts.
"After reviewing how much the measure will be helpful for the victims, their families and the region, we will make a decision soon," the official added.
With full-scale search-and-rescue operations underway, the government set up a pan-governmental response team in charge of relevant operations and follow-up measures.
The special team stationed in the West Regional Headquarters of the Korea Coast Guard in the coastal city of Mokpo involves all relevant state agencies, including the maritime, home affairs, defense, education and cultural ministries and will be directed by Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, according to his office.
What caused the tragedy remains unclear, but experts have said the ship may have hit an underwater rock.