Friday, 18 April 2014

As Tragedy Unfolds

I felt today that I needed to write about the thing that's been at the forefront of my mind for the last couple of days. It's not a happy topic by any means, but right now a necessary one.
As the families of the passengers on board the now sunk ferry wait to find out if there are any more survivors, I feel like I am waiting with them. 
The story has made international news at home and in the US, but in case you don't know, a ferry carrying 459 passengers, travelling from Seoul to Jeju Island in South Korea, sank on Wednesday. The majority of the people on board the Sewol were high school students on a field trip. Reports are inconclusive right now as to what happened exactly but they think either the boat hit a rock, or turned too quickly causing cargo to shift to one side. Either way, the boat fell on its side and then later capsized. As of this moment 25 are confirmed dead and 280 are missing.

I've been reading all the updates and the tale that is unravelling just seems to be getting worse and worse. Of course it gets worse by the minute in that the likelihood of finding survivors is becoming less and less likely. But there are so many other things too. The weather and sea currents are so bad that the rescue mission is almost impossible. In fact three divers went missing at one point but thankfully were later found. In the official statement released by the parents, they say that they were at first informed that all the passengers had gotten off the ferry and that they should go to pick them up. When they got there, of course they found the reality to be entirely different. Some parents apparently went out in their own boat with private divers to try and help, but had to turn back due to several of them fainting from distress. I can only begin to imagine how distraught they all must be.
Police are now requesting an arrest warrant for the captain who abandoned ship rather than trying to help his passengers. Aside from the fact that it's against sea law for a captain to do that, it's difficult to get your head round how he could've left all those children and saved himself. I can't pretend to know I would be brave in that situation, but I like to think I would try and do what I could to help. There are reports coming out now about adults who died doing just that, and I hope they will be remembered forever by those people who were saved. The captain has released a short statement saying he's 'deeply ashamed and so sorry.' I think it would be easy to blame him for what happened and to condemn him for what he didn't do, but at the same time I have no idea if I would be able to act in a different or better way if I were in the same situation. The vice principal of the school was rescued but has now been found to have hung himself, near the gym where all the parents are waiting. I think this shows the extent of guilt any adults survivors must be feeling at this time. Whether we believe what they did was right or wrong, it's definitely fair to say they've been through something terrible.

What really gets to me is that unlike a plane crash, there was a window of opportunity in which many more people could have been saved. They ferry was only 25km off the coast of Korea, and there were fishing boats nearby that quickly picked up people in the water. Reports have said that passengers were told to 'stay where they were' and then never actually instructed on how or when to try and escape. And then it was too late.  It's so angering. I know it's generally not advised to jump into freezing cold water, but I think a lot more people would've had more of a chance than they do now. 

Anyway, apologies for such a depressing post, I just wanted to say something about it. And now all I can do- along with the families, the people of Korea and the rest of the world- is put my trust in the rescuers, wait and hope for a miracle. 

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