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Rescue criticized after boat tragedySlow response hampered by false information and bad weather as 14 drown around Chujado Island
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승인 2015.10.01  15:42:56
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▲ 14 drowned and four are missing after a boat tragedy on Sept 5 near Chujado Island. Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

Maritime authorities have been criticized by victims’ families after the allegedly slow response to a fishing boat disaster in the seas south of Chujado on Saturday, Sept 5.

Of 21 passengers, 14 died and four remain missing after the 9.77-ton Dolphin fishing boat was found capsized on the morning of Sunday, Sept 6.

Three passengers were saved by a couple in a passing fishing boat 11 hours after the incident.

Victims’ families say four victims were wearing life jackets and the alleged slow rescue operation could have led to hypothermia and death.

After losing contact at 7:38pm on Saturday evening, 10 hours elapsed before a rescue team from the Maritime Special Rescue Division (MSRD) arrived on the scene.

The MSRD is independent of the local Coast Guard and was created in response to the Sewol ferry disaster.

It is trained to respond within one hour to maritime emergencies and is equipped with cutting-edge technology and specialist personnel.

The Jeju Coast Guard waited until 11pm to request support from the Division, and then bad weather confined it to its Busan base.

Kong Gil-young, a professor at the Korea Maritime and Ocean University, told The Korea Times that the MSRD should have been notified “from the very first stages of the incident.”

▲ Night fishing is a popular, if dangerous, pastime in Jeju.
Photo courtesy Jeju Special Self-Governing Province

Kong went on to criticize the authorities for not using star shells and adequate search lights during the rescue.

The Coast Guard claims it sent out a rapid 28-boat patrol in response to the sinking, but Yonhap reports that operational secrecy means they can’t make their logs public.

Additional factors hampering the rescue mission include an incorrect passenger list — three unregistered passengers boarded the boat and registered passengers did not turn up — and the lack of life jackets used.

Despite never boarding the boat, one registered passenger told Chuja Safety Center that the boat was sailing well when contacted at around 8:40pm. He said he lied as he was concerned about there being repercussions for not boarding.

The Coast Guard’s “drift prediction system” also dispatched three patrol ships in the opposite direction after incorrect wind and current calculations.

The Coast Guard is liable to pay compensation if any deaths are caused by its negligence, although experts say it is too late to undertake autopsies on the bodies to determine the exact causes of death.

Victims’ families were also angered by the Jeju government’s refusal to set up a memorial altar for the victims. The government said that the incident did not meet the criteria for such a state-established altar.

The couple (from South Jeolla Province) responsible for saving the three men on the open seas have been awarded for their bravery by the Ministry of Public Safety and Security.

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