Seoul, March 25 (IANS) A South Korean passenger ferry which capsized in 2014 killing over 300 people, was lifted out of the water on Saturday, rescue officials said.
The ferry, Sewol, was successfully loaded onto a ship at 4.10 a.m., a spokesperson for the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries told Yonhap news agency.
Over the next two or three days, rescue officials will secure the ferry to the vessel, which has the capacity to transport a load of up to 70,000 tonnes on its deck, before heading to the Mokpo port around 87 km away.
It is estimated that it will take one day to reach Mokpo.
The placement of Sewol on the semi-submersible vessel was one of the most complicated procedures given the fact it was greatly affected by weather and tides.
South Korean officials had planned to complete this step before midnight Friday, but the process lasted more than seven hours because of the difficulty in turning the direction of the ferry – 6,825 tonnes and a length of 145 metres – and the two tugboats during the 3-km journey.
The South Korean government had promised to carefully remove the ferry in order to find and deliver to the relatives the remains of nine passengers of the Sewol who were never found and were believed to be inside the sunken vessel.
The salvage operation of the Sewol, which lay on the sea bed some 40 metres deep, started on Wednesday, almost three years after it capsized on the southwest coast of South Korea near the island of Jindo, killing over 300 people.
Sewol capsized on April 16, 2014, and is the worst maritime accident in the history of the country.
In total, 304 people were killed, including crew and passengers, most of whom were high school students on a trip.