President says captain`s actions `tantamount to murder`

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Manju Shukla
Date  21/04/2014
South Korean president Park Geun-Hye says the behaviour of the captain and crew of the Sewol ferry that capsized five days ago with 476 people on board was unacceptable and "tantamount to murder".

The death toll from the ferry disaster stands at 64, but 238 people are still missing, presumed dead.

Captain Lee Joon-Seok has been arrested on five charges, including negligence of duty and abandoning people in need.
Captain Lee Joon-Seok Photo: Captain Lee Joon-Seok faces five charges including negligence of duty and abandoning people in need. (ABC TV)

"The actions of the captain and some crew members were utterly incomprehensible, unacceptable and tantamount to murder," the presidential Blue House quoted Ms Park as saying in a meeting with senior aides.

"Not only my heart, but the hearts of all South Koreans have been broken and filled with shock and anger," said the president, who was heckled on Thursday when she met relatives of the hundreds of passengers still missing - most of them school children.

The families have criticised the official response to the disaster, saying the initial rescue effort was inadequate and mismanaged.

Ms Park said it was increasingly clear that the captain had unnecessarily delayed the evacuation of passengers as the ferry started sinking, and then "deserted them" by escaping first.

Lee was arrested on Saturday along with a helmsman and the ship`s relatively inexperienced third officer, who was in charge of the bridge when the ship first ran into trouble.

Another four crew members - three officers and an engineer - were also arrested on Monday on charges ranging from criminal negligence to violation of maritime law, according to prosecutors cited by Yonhap news agency.

"This is utterly unimaginable, legally and ethically," Ms Park said, adding that all parties to the disaster, from the owners, to the safety inspectors to the crew would be investigated and all those responsible would be held "criminally accountable"

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