South Korea ferry disaster: devastated students return to classes at Danwon High School

Final year students have returned back to classes at the school where more than 300 of its students were on board the ship as it capsized

Students at the high school devastated by the South Korean ferry disaster have returned to classes today, just over a week after the ship capsized with more than 300 students from Danwon High School on board.

Education officials said the first two days of classes will focus on helping students cope with losses and trauma, with help from psychiatrists and professional counsellors. 

Almost 250 students and teachers from Danwon have been confirmed dead or are presumed to have died when the ferry sank while travelling from Incheon to Jeju Island, carrying 476 people.

A flower strewn temporary memorial was opened at the Olympic Memorial Museum during a service on Wednesday. Messages have also been posted across the Danwon School.

Twenty-two of the 29 members of the ferry's crew survived, and 11, including Capt. Lee Joon-seok, have been arrested or detained in connection with the investigation.

A hearse carrying a body of victim of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, arrives at Danwon High School A hearse carrying a body of victim of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, arrives at Danwon High School Survivors have claimed passengers were told to stay on the ship as it listed. 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”.

Final year students at Danwon began classes this morning, and younger classes will begin next week. It is not clear when the 75 students who survived will return, most of whom remain in hospital.

Lee Seung-min, an 18-year-old senior, said Wednesday that students are "constantly watching the news and crying, and going back and forth from the school, placing chrysanthemums and crying, and unable to do anything."

Notes and messages to missing teachers and students have been posted on walls, stairs, doors and windows.

"Our Jung-hoon is a nice kid," read one message, left on a door. "Please. Save him. If he won't come back, please send him to a good place."

Another read: "If I see you again, I'll tell you I love you, because I haven't said it to you enough."

The cause of the disaster has not yet been establishged. Investigators are considering a wide range of factors including wind, ocean currents, freight, modifications made to the ship and the fact that it turned just before it began listing.

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