Sewol’s emergency communications made public

Thirty one minutes of communications between the ferry Sewol and the Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) office on Jindo Island reveals the last moments of the ships voyage.

According to the recording revealed by the Korea Coast Guard, Sunday, communications began at 9:06 a.m. with last message at 9:37 a.m.

The office calls the ferry.

“Sewol! Are you there? Sewol! Sewol!”

One minute later at 9:07 a.m. the ferry’s senior mate answers.

“Jindo VTS, Sewol!”

Asked if the ferry is sinking, he answers, “Yes, we are sinking! Urgent! Please call the Coast Guard!”

Three minutes pass.

“The boat has tilted too much… it looks like it’s going to capsize at any second,” the mate says, repeating “It’s tilted too much. It can hardly move.”

At 9:12 a.m. the VTS asks, “Are passengers getting on to lifeboats?”

“Not yet! The ferry has listed too much to move.”

At 9:21 a.m. Sewol sounds more desperate.

“Is the Coast Guard coming to rescue us? How long will it take?”

Two minutes pass.

“Rescue boats are 15 minutes away. Tell people to put on their lifejackets.”

“We can’t make any announcement now,” the ferry replies, without explaining why but implying much of the equipment in the steering room had gone underwater by then.

“Then, get passengers to wear lifejackets,” the VTS commands.

“Are you sure if we have passengers escape from the ship, will they be rescued immediately?

Taken up by his question, the VTS responses, “It’s up to you. You know better than us here. We’ll leave this up to your judgment. But you don’t have time to waste. Decide whether to evacuate the people or not soon!”

“That’s not what I am saying. My question is whether the passengers will be rescued right away if I tell them to abandon ship?”

The last message from the ferry arrives at 9:37 a.m.

“It’s impossible to gauge how much is under water. The Coast Guard and other boats are as close as 50 meters. It looks like people on the portside are trying to jump. We made an announcement, but moving around is not easy. The vessel is listing to port about 60 degrees. I see helicopters.”

The recordings confirm that the captain was among the first to escape, which has fueled enormous public anger.

he captain and two crew were arrested Saturday. By Kim Se-jeong The korea times

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