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SEWOL DISASTER

Ferry had balancing and steering problems before : former staffs

Photo : EPA

Photo : EPA

As divers continue their search for the missing passengers of the sunk Sowol ferry, South Korean authorities were delving deeper into what happened aboard the ship in the run up to the fatal incident.

Oceans and Fisheries Ministry now suspects that the vessel suffered a power outage for about 36 seconds at about 8.48 am as the ship's automatic identification system has no data regarding that period.

Less than a minute after the AIS resumed compiling data, the ship took a 45-degree turn. The ministry suspects that the event that caused the Sewol to lose balance took place as it took the sharp turn.

More accounts claiming that the Sewol was experiencing malfunctions for some time have also emerged.

A number of former Sewol crew members have told local media that the Sewol had balancing problems, and the crew reported a problem with the ship's steering system two weeks before the accident.

The investigation into the cause has also turned up more controversial accounts from the embattled crew. All 15 of the ship's crew directly involved in operating the vessel, including captain Lee Joon-seok, have been rescued.

According to investigators, crew members have said the captain's evacuation order was not relayed and that the passengers were not told to abandon ship before the crew escaped.

In addition, an engineer told the investigators that the rescued crew used passages accessible only to the staff.

As the controversy expands, some families of the missing passengers have also decided to have autopsies conducted in an attempt to determine the exact cause of death and take legal action if necessary.

"As (some) of the deceased do not appear to have simply drowned, a need to determine the exact cause of death has risen," representatives of the families said.

"Autopsies will be conducted to determine whether rescue was possible. The autopsies will be conducted at the hospitals the bodies are sent to, and the families will be able to name doctors or pathologists to sit in."


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