Transcript reveals confusion over ferry evacuation

Transcript reveals confusion over ferry evacuation

Credit: Getty Images

JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 16: In this handout image provided by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard, passengers are rescued by the Republic of Korea Coast Guard from a ferry sinking off the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying about 470 passengers, including students and teachers, traveling to Jeju island. (Photo by The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images)

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Associated Press

Posted on April 20, 2014 at 5:03 AM

Updated Sunday, Apr 20 at 8:09 PM

JINDO, South Korea (AP) — A transcript released Sunday of communications with the South Korean ferry that sank details crippling confusion and indecision, with a crew member questioning whether an evacuation was the right move well after the ship began listing dangerously.

"If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?" a crew member on the ferry Sewol asked Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center (VTS) at 9:24 a.m. Wednesday, about a half-hour after the ship began listing. That followed several statements from the ship saying it was impossible for people aboard the ship to even move, and another in which it said it was "impossible to broadcast" instructions.

"Even if it's impossible to broadcast, please go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing," an unidentified VTS official urged just before the Sewol asked about the prospects for rescue.

"The rescue of human lives of Sewol ferry ... the captain should make your own decision and evacuate them," the VTS official said. "We don't know the situation very well. The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you're going to evacuate passengers or not."

"I'm not talking about that," responded the unidentified ferry crew member. "I asked, if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?"

The VTS official said patrol boats would arrive in 10 minutes, but did not mention that another civilian ship was already nearby and had said 10 minutes earlier that it would rescue anyone who went overboard.

The captain initially ordered passengers to stay in their rooms, and took more than a half hour to issue an evacuation order — an order several passengers have said they never heard. More than 50 bodies have been recovered, about 250 people remain missing and only 174 are known to have survived.

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