Frustrated relatives of the scores of people still missing from the sinking of the ferry Sewol held the fisheries minister and the coast guard chief overnight, angry about the pace of divers who have recovered 183 bodies so far but may have nearly 120 left to find in the dark rooms of the submerged vessel.
Scrutiny about the wreck's cause, meanwhile, has turned to what the ferry was carrying: more than 3,600 tons of cargo, according to the company that loaded it.
An inspector that examined the vessel during a redesign said it could safely handle only about 1,000 tons of cargo and passengers, and needed more than 2,000 tons of water as ballast to ensure it remained balanced.
A naval architecture expert said today that the reported load could have set the ship tipping over with a significant turn. Tracking data show that the ship turned 45 degrees before sinking, and crew members have reportedly said that they had tried to make a much less severe turn.
"The ship would suddenly fall even with just a small turn. It should not make a sharp turn," said Lee Kyu Yeul, professor emeritus in ship and offshore plant design at Seoul National University's Department of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering. "It should make a huge circle with 1 or 2 degrees of turn, but (the Sewol) made a small circle. So it fell."
Prosecutor Yang Jung-jin of the joint investigation team said Friday that the cause of the sinking could be due to excessive veering, improper stowage of cargo, modifications made to the ship and tidal influence. He said investigators will determine the cause of the accident by consulting with the experts and simulating.
Prosecutors have raided and seized documents at Korean Register of Shipping, which conducted the redesign inspection, and the Korea Shipping Association, which regulates and oversees departures and arrivals of domestic passenger ships, according to officials at both organisations who asked to be anonymous because they were not authorized to speak about matters under investigation.
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