After Nearly 3 Years, Sewol Ferry Lifted from Sea in 1 Day
SEJONG, March 23 (Yonhap) -- The Sewol ferry was raised from the sea Thursday after an overnight salvage operation, some three years after its sinking that resulted in the deaths of 300 people and left nine missing.
Two salvage barges raised the 145-meter-long, 6,825-ton ship that had been lying about 40 meters under water off South Korea's southwest coast near the island of Jindo. The sinking that occurred in April 2014 is the worst maritime disaster in the country's history.
The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries earlier expected the operation to hoist the upper part of the hull some 13 meters above sea level to be finished by late afternoon.
The procedure has been delayed as the ship made contact with the pulley of the two barges tasked with the lifting. The salvage operators will fine tune the position of the vessel and balance it before lifting it to the desired height.
In a press briefing at 10 p.m., the ministry said that the upper part of the ferry was about 10 meters above sea level. It said the raising process was proceeding more slowly compared to the afternoon.
The ministry said that the left rear ramp on the ferry remains in an open position, making it hard to move it onto a semisubmersible ship that will carry the ill-fated ferry to the port of Mokpo.
Divers are currently working to remove the ramp, with the work likely to continue until early morning on Friday, the ministry said.
It will take about eight days to lift the ship and move it to port, and then take an additional four days to move it onto a dry dock, the ministry said.'
After the ferry safely leaves the accident site, the ministry said divers will search carefully for any remains left in the water and on the sea floor. Authorities said underwater fences surrounding the area where the Sewol sank have been set up.
Efforts to lift the Sewol started at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday following several hours of careful examination of the weather conditions because the sea must be fairly calm. Waves must be under 1 meter and the wind speed needs to be below 10 meters per second.
At 3:30 p.m., the ferry was carefully test lifted 1 meter from the sea bottom and salvage workers carried out balancing procedures before committing themselves to pulling the hull out of the water. Divers also checked the underwater situation to make certain that the operation will go smoothly.
The ministry said all technical aspects and local weather conditions were reviewed at the time of lifting. The upper part of the hull emerged from the water before 4 a.m. Thursday.
Earlier, the Seoul government decided to pull the ferry out of the water intact in order to protect any remains of people still missing from the tragic sinking and carry out a detailed investigation into the event.
The 85.1 billion won (US$72 million) project to recover the ship is being conducted by a Chinese consortium led by China's state-run Shanghai Salvage.