The way forward

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The way forward

A parent representing the families with children missing on the ferry Sewol yesterday delivered some positive news on the current status of the rescue team’s search in the sunken ship, where hundreds of high school students were trapped. “From today, the rescue team will kick off a full-fledged search. So far, divers have broken 17 windows of the ship to increase the number of guidelines from five to 10 to accelerate their rescue.” After a middle-aged man asked, “When will they enter the large cabin where over 30 students presumably gathered?” the representative said, “According to the authority, visibility is almost zero in the ship. I can’t say if that would be possible.”

The families are tired but are still desperate to find out what happened to their children. Some who visited a makeshift morgue about 100 meters (328 feet) away from their encampment at Jindo’s gymnasium to try to identify bodies suddenly burst into tears after confirming their worst fears, and their six days of hopes, however diminishing, were extinguished for good.

Families who remained in the gymnasium earnestly read the descriptions of unidentified bodies posted on a board. When a body was accompanied by an ID, the families were instantly summoned to see if the remains were indeed those of their children.

In the meantime, volunteers from around the country rolled up their sleeves to help the families by handing out hot meals, blankets, underwear, medicine and, as hard as they are to find, some words of comfort. But the lethargic disaster management was proven over and over again. Families wonder what the government was up to at the time of such a huge tragedy. As it turned out, the ferry and the Jindo Vessel Traffic Service had a terrible communication problem despite the urgency of the situation. Government ministries and agencies also acted in perfect disharmony and lost vital time for rescue.

But now is the time for everyone to extend their sympathies to the bereaved families and those with missing children. We must also applaud all the brave rescue efforts by military and civilian divers and encourage them to save any of our sons and daughters who may still be struggling to survive the cold waters.

On a poster on the wall of the gym are words of hope, such as, “We will wait for a miracle,” “Return to your families,” and “We’re all waiting for you.” But the clock is ticking. Let’s pray for their miraculous return. We must not repeat such a tragedy ever again.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 22, Page 30

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