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Sewol ferry captain rescue video infuriates South Koreans

A video showing the coast guard rescuing the captain and crew members of the Sewol as it was listing has infuriated South Koreans.

SEOUL: A video showing the coast guard rescuing the captain and crew members of the Sewol as it was listing has infuriated South Koreans.

They were one of the first to be rescued, while hundreds of passengers on board were asked to stay in their seats.

The video also shows how rescue operations during the first precious minutes were slow and minimal.

The first call for help from the Sewol was made by a student at 8.52am on April 16.

He said: “Help us -- we are on a ship and I think we are sinking.”

It was only 10 minutes later that a crew member called the coast guard for help.

The conversation between that crew member and the coast guard lasted for about half an hour.

By that time, two members of the coast guard had headed for the ferry which had tilted by about 45 degrees.

The rescue boat came back with five others on board -- all crew members of the Sewol.

Another boat headed to the front of the ferry which had tilted by about 70 degrees by then.

The ship's captain, wearing sweater and just his underpants, scrambled to get out while others, who appeared to be crew members, slid down the bridge to the coast guard boat.

There did not appear to be any attempts made by the coast guard to enter the ship and save the others on board.

In its defence, the coast guard officers said that their priority in the 30-minute rescue operation was to get the people they saw on the ship out of harm's way, adding that they had no idea who they were saving.

“At the time, everyone was wearing life vests so we couldn't differentiate who was who,” said coast guard captain Kim Kyung-il.

Most of those rescued were crew members. Others were passengers who had jumped into the sea as the ferry sank.

“There were just so many people coming down the bridge,” said Kim Yong-ki, a coast guard officer.

“At first, we wanted to go up the bridge, but we had to rescue those coming down first. And those who had jumped into the water or else they would be too cold. We had to first rescue them.”

One survivor reported: “We were told to wear our life-jackets about 15 minutes before the coast guard came. And so we did and we waited. We then decided it would be better to go out and swim if we had to.”

At 9:49am -- almost an hour after the first call for help was made -- there was finally an attempt to seek out passengers trapped inside the ferry.

The coast guard broke a window, managing to rescue some passengers wearing life jackets.

But by then, the ferry had tilted by nearly 90 degrees and was about to be submerged.

More survivors were found at 10:20am, which was the last time anyone had been saved from the ferry.

The Sewol went under 20 minutes later.

The video released by the coast guard has fuelled more anger among South Koreans -- who believe there could have been more survivors if rescue operations were properly carried out during those precious moments. 

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