Video shows captain leaving sinking South Korean ferry

A screenshot from coastguard video of the captain of the doomed ferry being rescued as hundreds remained trapped inside his ship. Photo / AP
A screenshot from coastguard video of the captain of the doomed ferry being rescued as hundreds remained trapped inside his ship. Photo / AP

South Korea's coastguard has released a video showing the trouserless captain of a sinking ferry scrambling to safety as hundreds remained trapped inside.

The 10-minute video - taken by rescue officials and aired yesterday by the YTN news channel - shows 69-year-old captain Lee Joon-seok, wearing a jumper and underpants, hastily escaping from the bridge of the tilting ship before it sank on April 16.

Video: Ferry Disaster: Crew told to escape after passengers

All 15 of the surviving crew responsible for sailing the huge ferry are in custody, facing charges including negligence and abandoning passengers.

Victims' families have bitterly criticised the official response to the disaster, saying delays in accessing the submerged ship may have robbed any survivors of their last chance to make it out alive.

The video attracted caustic online comment.

"Look at the captain running out of the ship without his pants on. How pathetic. Can't believe he didn't think about all the children trapped there while he rushed so quickly to save his own life," said one user.

Prosecutors on Monday carried out a series of raids, including on a coastguard office, as part of their widening investigation into the disaster that left 300 dead or missing.

Divers trying to search the wreck of the upturned Sewol, which capsized with 476 people on board, were frustrated for a third straight day by atrocious weather and dangerous conditions.

Despite more than 60 hours of operations since Friday by divers trying to penetrate the flooded interior, only two more bodies have been recovered and 113 are still unaccounted for.

The confirmed death toll from one of the country's worst ever maritime disasters stood on Monday at 189. Most of the missing and dead were high school students.

Strong currents have also worsened fears bodies could drift free and be scattered.

Nets have been thrown up in seas around the ferry but no finds have yet been reported.

Park Seung-Gi, a spokesman for the government's Joint Task Force co-ordinating actions, vowed on Monday to redouble efforts to prevent bodies getting lost at sea.

Special teams have been set up to search underwater around the sunken vessel, as well on the sea surface, nearby islands and shores, he said.

Another official said China and Japan would be asked to contact South Korea if they find any unidentified bodies on their shores.

In deeply Confucian South Korea, the proper burial of bodies - often in the deceased person's home town - is considered a way to show respect for the dead and allow their soul to rest in peace.

South Korea remains in a state of national mourning, as furious relatives and the public at large cast around for someone to blame for one of the country's worst maritime accidents.

The video shows the open decks of the ship nearly empty, as crew repeatedly instruct passengers to stay in their cabins until it becomes impossible for them to evacuate because the ship is tilting too much.

The delay in the crucial final hours - when most crew members fled the ferry - sparked outrage that many lives could have been saved if passengers had received timely instructions.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-Won tendered his resignation on Sunday, admitting he had not been up to the task of overseeing the official response. He was told by President Park Geun-Hye to stay in his post until the recovery has finished.

- AFP

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 20 Dec 2014 23:36:58 Processing Time: 465ms