A recovery operation has raised the Sewol ferry, which sank off South Korea’s southern coast almost three years ago.
An official overseeing the operation said the ferry reached the water’s surface shortly before five o’clock, local time.
Three-hundred-four people, many of them high school students, died when the Sewol sank in April 2014.
The sinking is considered one of South Korea’s worst maritime disasters. It has been an issue of deep sadness, anger and division.
Families of the victims have called for the Sewol to be raised and for a more complete investigation of the sinking.
The head of a group representing the victims’ families, Yoo Kyung-geun, released a statement on Thursday. It urged the government to “work on the recovery of the missing victims first.”
A Chinese salvage company raised the hull of the passenger ship, which sank in 40 meters of water near Jindo Island.
An official of South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said it will take 12 to 13 days to bring the ship to the port of Mokpo.
Recent efforts to raise the ship have been slowed by weather and strong waves.
The sinking shook South Korea and its politics
The Sewol was carrying 467 people on the day it left for the South Korean island of Jeju on April 16, 2014.
Investigators say the ship was dangerously overloaded with goods, making it unbalanced.
The ship overturned while trying to make a turn at high speed.
Adding to the anger over the tragedy was the reported failure of the crew and officers to ensure the safety of the passengers. Crew members reportedly told many of the 250 teenagers who died while on a school trip to stay in their room. The Sewol’s captain and crew members later left the ship.
The captain was found guilty of gross negligence charges and sentenced to life in prison. Fourteen crew members were given sentences of up to 12 years for abandonment and violating maritime law.
The rescue efforts of the South Korean coast guard were also criticized.
The sinking led to a sharp drop in approval of the government of then-president Park Geun-hye. She was blamed for disappearing for seven hours during the incident. She made no public statement while the ship sank.
The public’s trust in Park never fully recovered.
The South Korean National Assembly voted to remove her from office last December. It noted Park’s reaction to the sinking and her reported links to illegal payments to an organization controlled by her friend as reasons for its vote.
The Constitutional Court voted to support the assembly’s decision earlier this month.
A new presidential election is to take place on May 9.
I’m Mario Ritter.
Brian Padden and Esha Sarai reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter adapted their report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
salvage – v. to carry out an effort to save or recover something that has been lost
hull – n. the body of a ship
maritime – adj. of or related to the sea
gross – adj. extreme
negligence – n. failure to exercise care
abandonment – n. rejection of one’s rights and responsibilities