Search of South Korean ferry wreckage uncovers remains of missing passengers

South Korea officials say remains found inside the recovered Sewol ferry initially identified as human are animal bones.

The Oceans Ministry had said earlier in the day the salvage crew was speeding up efforts to move the Sewol to a Mokpo port to be prepared for a thorough search around April 10. A few hours later, however, the bone fragments were found out to be from animals.

A maritime police officer and a forensic expert are to stay on the semi-submersible ship carrying the ferry until it reaches land, which is expected to be today or tomorrow.

The shoes found along with the bone fragments, whose number has not been announced, were determined to be "work shoes", according to the ministry. It did not clarify whether it was that of a worker now working on the salvaging process or a Sewol passenger almost three years ago. The task is expected to prove difficult in part because the ship is now lying on its left side on top of a semi-submersible ship. which will make it harder for investigators to move through the vessel safely than if it were upright.

The ferry was structurally unsound, overloaded and traveling too fast on a turn when it capsized and sank during a routine voyage off the southwest coast on April 16, 2014. The conventional alternatives - leaving the wreckage in place or chain-cutting it into sections - were not acceptable for the goal of recovering the nine missing bodies.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries had rescheduled the lifting operation to the latest neap tide after bad weather delayed attempts earlier in March and throughout 2016.

Relatives have expressed concerns that remains of the missing victims could slip out through the holes and get lost. Their remains have not been recovered.

"The search for the remains of the missing must be ongoing at all times, throughout the process of moving the ferry to the Mokpo New Port".

Nine people remain missing from among the 304 dead, a lot of them children on a school trip, in the April 16, 2014 disaster after the Sewol, structurally unsound, overloaded and traveling too fast on a turn, capsized and sank off the southwest coast. "Please help us find at least a strand of their hair or even a nail on their fingers".

The news comes as bereaved families and officials hope to find the last nine bodies still missing from the disaster, after the ferry was raised last week and loaded onto a semi-submersible vessel for a journey to a nearby port.

  • Leroy Wright