A South Korean ferry of 6800 tons was finally raised to the surface Thursday, almost three years after a shipwreck that left more than 300 dead.
However, operations were suspended when the workers discovered that a door used to load the cars opened and hung on the side of the ship. For the time being, this door prevents the Sewol from boarding the semi-submersible lifeboat which was to transport it to a port.
Divers are now trying to cut the door with torches. They must complete the operation over the next few hours, since the area they are in is known for its violent currents. The sea is currently calm, but currents are expected to gain strength on Saturday.
Workmen on board two barges had slipped on Wednesday 66 cables under the wreck of the Sewol, which rested on its left flank in about 45 meters of water. These cables are connected to a metal frame that divers have assembled over the past few months.
The Sewol stabilizer surfaced around 3:45 am local time. About an hour later, the ship’s blue and white flank, damaged and rusted and without the name “Sewol” now erased, emerged for the first time in nearly 1000 days. By 7 am, the ferry had been sufficiently bailed out so that the workers could climb on it and secure it more securely to the barges.
Around 5 pm, the ferry exceeded the surface by approximately 8.5 meters.
The bodies of 295 passengers were recovered after the 16 April 2014 sinking, but nine have never been recovered. Their relatives, some of whom had traveled for the operation, are hoping that their remains will still be on board the ship. Most of the victims are students who were on a school trip.
The port of the town of Mokpo where the ferry is to be driven is 90 kilometers away, a journey that will take at least two weeks. Experts will then try not only to find the missing, but also to better understand what caused the accident.
The sinking had provoked a real national crisis. The captain of the ferry survived the disaster and is now serving a life sentence after being convicted of intentional negligence as he left the ship without issuing an evacuation order.
South Korea had awarded a US $ 76 million contract in 2015 to a Chinese company to recover the Sewol.