For a moment there is silence in the tent where bodies from the ferry disaster are brought for identification. Then the anguished cries begin.
The families who line up here to view the decomposing bodies have not known for nearly a week whether they should grieve or not. Now that they know, they sound like they’re being torn apart.
“How do I live without you? How will your mother live without you?’’ a woman cried out Tuesday.
She was with a woman who emerged from the tent crying and fell into a chair where relatives tried to comfort her. One stood above her and cradled her head in her hands, stroking her face.
“Bring back my daughter!’’ the woman cried, calling out her child’s name in agony. A man rushed over, lifted her on his back and carried her away.
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The confirmed death toll from the April 16 disaster off South Korea’s southern coast reached 113 on Tuesday, officials said, and about 190 people were still missing. Four crew members accused of abandoning the ship and failing to protect the passengers were arrested, three days after warrants were issued for the captain and two other crew.
The victims are overwhelmingly students of a single high school in Ansan, near Seoul. More than three-quarters of the 323 students are dead or missing, while nearly two-thirds of the other 153 people on board the ferry Sewol survived.
The number of corpses recovered has risen sharply since the weekend, when divers battling strong currents and low visibility were finally able to enter the submerged vessel.
Emergency task force spokesman Koh Myung-seok said bodies have mostly been found on the third and fourth floors of the ferry, where many passengers seemed to have gathered. Many students were housed in cabins on the fourth floor, near the stern of the ship, Koh said.
One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of Jindo island Tuesday.
The bodies are then driven in ambulances to two tents: one for men and boys, the other for women and girls. Families listen quietly outside as an official briefs them, then line up and file in. Only relatives are allowed inside.
First sign of diSaster was call from a frightened boy
SEOUL: The first distress call from a sinking South Korean ferry was made by a boy with a shaking voice, three minutes after the vessel made its fateful last turn. He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters. The boy who made the first call is among the missing. The boy’s voice was shaking and sounded urgent, a fire officer told MBC TV. It took a while for officials to identify the ship as the Sewol. “Save us! We’re on a ship and I think it’s sinking,” Yonhap news agency quoted him as saying. Reuters