Terrible tragedy

The death toll in the ferry disaster off South Korea’s southern coast last week is rapidly rising.

Of the 476 people on board the ill-fated boat, The Sewol, 64 are confirmed dead so far while 238 are still missing.

Over the last couple of days, divers have not rescued any passengers but are only retrieving dead bodies of those trapped in the sunken ferry.

In the circumstances, hope is quickly turning into despair and even rage as families of those still missing struggle to cope with their loss.

What makes the disaster all the more tragic is the fact that 350 of the ferry’s passengers were high school students on a class trip to the island of Jeju.

What was to be a fun-filled holiday turned into a ghastly nightmare. Reports that the ferry’s crew fled the boat, instead of staying back to direct the evacuation operations have triggered a tidal wave of anger among the Korean public.

The Korean government has even described the actions of the crew as amounting to murder.

Statements by survivors and initial investigations into the tragedy indicate several grave errors on the part of the crew.

It appears that they ordered the passengers to stay put on the boat instead of trying to escape.

The few who survived did so either because they disobeyed the captain or did not hear his orders.

As Koreans struggles to come to terms with the tragedy, people will need answers.

Some will pin the blame on individuals.

Sure the captain’s failure to order an early evacuation resulted in scores of children losing their lives.

However, the shipping company that owns The Sewol cannot absolve itself of responsibility.

While The Sewol was not overloaded with passengers, its cargo, which consisted of hundreds of cars and trucks, was reportedly excessive in weight and not secured properly.

As the boat lurched on choppy waters, the poorly tethered cargo was hurled around. Did this cause the boat to capsize?

Media reports indicate that the crew were not trained in evacuation and that there weren’t enough life jackets on board.

Thus, this was a disaster that was not just man-made but was waiting to happen.

A probe must establish the truth not only to provide closure for families of the deceased but also, to ensure that similar tragedies do not recur.

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