South Korea ferry: Captain could face criminal investigation as warrant is sought

South Korea's president urged rescue teams to 'hurry' as search for survivors of capsized ship enters a second day

The captain of the Sewol ferry in South Korea could face a criminal investigation amid unconfirmed claims he abandoned ship after it capsized with over 470 passengers, most of them school students, on board.

Lee Joon-seok, 69, is being questioned, coastguard officials said, amid reports that he was one of the first to jump to safety from the stricken vessel.

Some survivors told local media Lee was one of the first to be rescued, although none actually saw him leave the ship. The coastguard and the ferry operator declined to comment.

A crew member has since claimed an immediate evacuation order was not issued because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilise the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos.

Oh Yong-seok, 58, said he wasn't sure if the captain's order, given to crew members, was actually relayed to passengers on the public address system. Several survivors also said they did not hear an evacuation order.

Lee Joon-Seok, captain of the South Korean ferry that capsized at sea off the coast of Jindo, is interviewed at Mokpo police station in Mokpo Lee Joon-Seok, captain of the South Korean ferry that capsized at sea off the coast of Jindo, is interviewed at Mokpo police station in Mokpo The exact cause of the incident has not yet been established and Lee is currently being investigated by police, according to local media. "I am really sorry and deeply ashamed. I don't know what to say," he was shown as saying on local television.

At a press conference today, the Chief of the West Regional Headquarters of the South Korean Coastguard Kim Soo-hyun said he would approve civilian divers who wanted to assist the search, providing there was "trust" between them and official search teams.

Speaking today, South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged rescue teams to "hurry" as time was running out in the hunt for survivors

Read more: Powerful images show dramatic rescue operation as search continues

Earlier, relatives waiting desperately for news of their loved ones reacted with fury when Prime Minister Chung Hong-won visited a gymnasium in Jindo, a nearby island, with some throwing water at him.

Another relative hit a government official briefing those who had gathered at the gym on the rescue operation following reports that passengers had been told to stay on the ship as it sank.

Grieving parents also accused rescue teams of being slow to react and of providing a lack of information.

As frustration grew, some parents of missing school children hired their own boat on Wednesday night. They appeared to blame the government of President Park Geun-hye and rescue officials for not making a big enough effort.

"Since the government refused to take us to the scene, 11 parents chipped in 61,000 won ($58.79) each to hire a boat and took a reporter and a diver. But there was no rescue operation going on," one father said.

A relative (R) of a passenger on board a capsized ferry hits a South Korean government official (L-name unavailable) as the official briefs the rescue situation at a gym in Jindo A relative (R) of a passenger on board a capsized ferry hits a South Korean government official as he briefs the rescue situation at a gym in Jindo

Earlier, rescue teams hammered on the hull of the upturned, mostly submerged vessel, hoping for a response from anyone trapped inside, but they heard nothing, local media reported.

Some 325 school children from the Danwon High School in Ansan, a Seoul suburb, were among the passengers on board the vessel, which was heading to the popular tourist island of Jeju. Nine people have been found dead and at least 280 are still missing.

Teams of divers fought rising winds, strong waves and murky waters through the night to locate those missing after the MV Sewol sank off the south-western coast of South Korea.

The dramatic rescue operation began two hours after the ship started listing severely and the ferry filled with water. Several survivors said passengers were told to remain where they were by on board announcements.

Cha Eun-ok, who was on the deck taking photographs at the time, said an “on-board announcement told people to stay put... people who stayed are trapped”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss