The Latest: Crews set to load ferry onto transport ship

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) " The latest on South Korean efforts to raise a ferry that sank nearly three years ago, killing more than 300 people (all times local):

11:30 a.m.

South Korean salvage crews have raised a sunken, 6,800-ton ferry high enough out of the water so they can load it onto a transport vessel that will carry it to a port.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said Friday that the upper side of the Sewol, which had been lifted from the seafloor where it was lying sideways, was now 13 meters (42 feet) above the water's surface.

Workers will now attempt to load the ferry onto a semi-submersible transport vessel.

They aim to finish that by late Friday as currents are forecast to strengthen on Saturday.

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8:50 a.m.

South Korean officials say divers have cut off a vehicle ramp that had been dangling from a sunken 6,800-ton ferry and hindering efforts to raise ship.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said divers removed the ramp early Friday from the Sewol , which sank in April 2014 in an accident that killed 304 passengers.

Removing the ramp will allow workers to raise the ferry to a height where it can be loaded onto a semi-submersible transport vessel for transportation to a port.

It was not possible to fit the ferry into the transport vessel with the ramp hanging off its side.

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10:45 p.m.

South Korean efforts to raise a sunken 6,800-ton ferry may have hit a significant obstacle.

An official from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, Lee Cheoljo, told reporters Thursday night that salvage crews have suspended operations to lift the Sewol after finding that a vehicle ramp is unlocked and dangling from the ship's left side.

Lee said it is not possible to load the ferry onto a vessel that is to carry it to port with the ramp hanging down.

He said divers are trying to cut off the ramp with welding equipment, and that it is vital to finish the job by Friday morning so the crew will have enough time to load the ferry onto the vessel by midnight Friday.

The waters where the ferry sank are notorious for dangerous currents. The sea is relatively calm now, but the currents are forecast to strengthen on Saturday.

Workers had initially planned to finish raising the ferry by Thursday evening.

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5:50 p.m.

South Korean officials say efforts to raise a 6,800-ton ferry from waters off the country's southwestern coast are going well after an earlier delay.

The ferry Sewol sank in April 2014, killing more than 300 people, including many students on a high school trip.

The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said Thursday that the top of the ferry was 8.5 meters (27 feet) above the water's surface at 5 p.m.

Workers are planning to raise the Sewol until its upper side is about 13 meters (42 feet) above the surface. Salvage crews will then start loading the ferry onto a semi-submersible, heavy-lift vessel that will carry it to port.

Workers had initially planned to finish raising the Sewol in the morning, but were forced to stop temporarily when it began rubbing against pulleys and other equipment on the two barges hoisting it with cables. They resumed lifting the ferry after spending hours to better balance it.

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3 p.m.

South Korean officials say salvage crews have resumed raising a 6,800-ton ferry Sewol off the country's southwestern coast.

Workers had halted the process for several hours after the ferry began rubbing against the pulleys and other equipment on the two barges that are raising it with cables.

An official from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said the problem has reduced following operations to better balance on the ferry. He said the top of the ferry is currently six meters (19 feet) above the water surface.

Workers are planning to raise the ferry until its upper side reaches about 13 meters (42 feet) above the surface. Salvage crews will then start loading the ferry onto a semi-submersible, heavy-lift vessel that will carry it to port.

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1:25 p.m.

South Korea's acting head of state has urged government officials to do their best to ensure a successful job salvaging the Sewol ferry.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn in meeting with Cabinet ministers on Thursday also called for the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries and other agencies to plan a thorough and quick investigation into the ship once it reaches a port.

The bodies of 295 passengers were recovered after the sinking on April 16, 2014, but nine are still missing. Relatives are hoping those remains will be found inside the ferry.

An investigation committee will also be formed to search for clues that could further explain the cause of the sinking, which has been blamed on overloaded cargo, improper storage and other negligence.

Hwang has been the government caretaker since South Korean lawmakers passed an impeachment motion against former President Park Geun-hye in December over a corruption scandal. The country's Constitutional Court formally removed Park from office earlier this month, triggering a presidential by-election that was set for May 9.

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11:50 a.m.

A South Korean group representing the families of ferry disaster victims has issued a statement thanking salvaging crews for lifting the 6,800-ton Sewol from the waters, nearly three years after it sank off the country's southwestern coast in an accident that killed 304 passengers.

The group called for the government to come up with more detailed plans to reduce damage to the wreckage during the salvage operation to preserve the remains of the missing passengers that might be inside.

The group demanded that it be part of a committee that will further investigate the cause of the sinking, which was blamed on overloaded cargo, improper storage and other negligence.

The bodies of 295 passengers were recovered after the sinking, but nine are still missing. Relatives are hoping that those remains will be found inside the ferry.

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11 a.m.

A South Korean government official says salvage crews will need until the late afternoon or evening Thursday to raise a sunken ferry to a point where they could start the process of loading it onto a vessel that will carry it to a mainland port.

Lee Cheoljo, an official from the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, said that workers have temporarily stopped raising the 6,800-ton Sewol after it began rubbing against pulleys and other equipment on the two barges that are raising it with cables. Lee said workers are conducting balancing operations that could take several hours.

Workers had hoped to finish raising the ferry by morning. Lee said the ferry has so far been lifted 24 meters (79 feet) from the seafloor, but needs to be elevated 11 meters (36 feet) further so its upper side reaches about 13 meters (42 feet) above the surface. Salvage crews will then begin loading the ferry onto a semi-submersible, heavy-lift vessel that will carry it to a port.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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