The first stage of preliminary inspections on the capsized Sewol ferry has been completed.
South Korea’s Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF) said on 16 September that 50 divers have been working on the vessel since 19 August, after the salvage contract was awarded to Chinese state-owned Shanghai Salvage and South Korean subsea cable-laying specialist Ocean C&I.
The 50 divers were among 211 personnel deployed to the site to work from two barges: Hyundai Boryeung and Dalrihao.
Guided by 3-D models of the ferry, they removed the residual fuel oil after accessing the inner hull to locate the oil tanks.
The inspection showed some of the fuel oil is leaking into decks C and D so subsequent salvage works are likely to include preliminary checks on the engine room.
The divers found cargoes and stowed vehicles were tilted towards the port side. Sea sediment has also flowed into decks A and B.
From 16 September, the workers will clean up the residual fuel oil and seal up all openings to prevent unrecovered bodies from moving to other parts of the vessel. This operation is expected to be completed in November.
The inspection revealed that 253 windows and 42 doors were broken down or lost after Sewol capsized on 16 April 2014. The ferry remains submerged in the Maenggol Channel of the Yellow Sea.
The MOF announced on 15 September that a committee had awarded compensation of KRW8 billion (USD6.8 million) to 19 more Sewol victims and payouts totalling KRW960 million were awarded to 12 claims for cargo damage. Additionally, KRW590 million was awarded to 43 claims made by fishermen for a drop in the production of marine products and related sales. The claimants will be paid as soon as the compensation is determined.
Sewol, carrying 476 passengers and crew, capsized during a routine Incheon-Jeju trip, leaving 304 dead or missing. Nine bodies remain missing. Many of the victims were Danwon High School students on an excursion to Jeju Island.