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Families of missing issue statement accusing gov't of not doing enough

2014/04/18 10:54

JINDO, South Korea, April 18 (Yonhap) -- Families of hundreds of people missing from the sunken ferry Sewol accused the government Friday of not doing enough to save their loved ones, as the death toll rose with no signs of additional survivors.

"We are making this appeal with tears because we are so furious with the way the government is handling this," a leader of the families said, reading from a prepared statement at an indoor gymnasium on the island of Jindo that has been used as a shelter for the families.

"Our children must be clamoring for help from underwater," the statement said.

As of Friday morning, 25 of the 475 passengers have been confirmed dead, while 271 others, mostly students from a high school in Ansan near Seoul, remained unaccounted for. Most of the missing are feared to be trapped inside the sunken ferry.

The families raised a series of accusations, including a claim that the government is keeping private divers from joining rescue operations. They also claimed that a far fewer number of rescue boats and helicopters are operating at the scene than the government announced.

The government has rejected such allegations as untrue.

The family statement reflected growing anxiety that time is running out for any possible survivors that could be trapped inside the sunken vessel as rescue efforts have been slow due to strong currents and poor underwater visibility at the scene.

The government has been under strong criticism for bungling its initial response to the accident. It has been unable to figure out exactly how many people were aboard the ship, and it revised the figure, as well as the numbers of those rescued and missing, many times.

Anger was also running high that such a high number of people are missing when there was enough time to save the passengers because it took nearly two hours for the ferry to sink, and that the ship's captain was one of the first to escape when hundreds of young students were still aboard.

The exact cause of the sinking is under investigation, with a primary focus on suspicions that the ship tried to make too sharp a turn and started tilting to one side due to the weight of its cargo.

The accident is expected to be South Korea's worst disaster after the 1994 sinking of a ferry that killed 292 people.