Raising the Sewol: Emotional time for kin of ferry victims

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It was carrying 476 people, 304 of whom, mostly high school students on a field trip, died.

The ferry lies about 40 meters underneath the surface. Great care has been taken to ensure it did not break apart. The incident killed more than 300 people, mostly school children. The bodies of 295 people have been recovered, nine are missing.

They are attempting to stabilize and secure the ship so it can be lifted 13 meters (42 feet) out of the water, after which it will be attached to a barge and towed to land. "I wish the causes of the ferry sinking will come out to the surface as well", said 59-year-old Song Cheol-sub. Public outrage over what was seen as a botched rescue job by the government contributed to the recent ouster of Park Geun-hye as president.

Until the ramp is cut away, crews can't load the ferry onto the semi-submersible heavy-lift vessel that would carry it into port. Cheoljo said divers will need to remove the ramp using welding equipment, and that it's vital to finish the work in enough time for the ferry to be loaded by midnight Friday.

Workers on two barges began the salvage operation of the 6,800-ton vessel on Wednesday night by slipping 66 cables underneath the ferry, which has been lying on its left side in 40m (130ft) of water. A relative of missing passengers of the sunken Sewol ferry weeps as she watches workers lifting the boat in waters off Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Bereaved families have been calling for the ship to be raised and for a more thorough investigation into the disaster.

If the ship can be levelled, and if the good weather holds, a decision could be made for the salvagers to go ahead and bring the ship up, the ministry said.

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"My Eun-hwa has been in that dirty place".

Once the ferry reaches a port 90 kilometres (55 miles) away in the city of Mokpo, in about two weeks, workers will begin clearing the mud and debris and search for the remains of the missing victims.

The ferry's captain survived and is serving a life sentence after a court found him guilty of committing homicide through "wilful negligence" because he fled the ship without issuing an evacuation order.

Park has been blamed in South Korea for her delayed reaction and seven-hour absence during the ferry sinking, although her non-appearance during the disaster did not violate the country's constitution, according to the judgment.

Negligence over the sinking was one of the grounds for which parliament impeached Park in December, although the constitutional court ruled that it was not an impeachable offence when it upheld her dismissal on other charges earlier this month.

The whole operation, which is being led by China's state-run Shanghai Salvage, is expected to take eight days, then another four days to move it onto a dry dock, at a cost of some $72 million.

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