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Fears rise for more than 50 missing from fishing ship

Published:Wednesday | December 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM


More than 50 crew members from a South Korean fishing ship that sank in the western Bering Sea were feared dead yesterday, as furious relatives blamed the ship's owner and its captain for not doing enough to save their family members from the frigid waters a day earlier.

Russian coast guard helicopters and at least five fishing ships were scouring the area in search of the missing, with authorities finding at least one empty lifeboat yesterday. Officials from the ship's South Korean parent company said they were hanging onto a "glimmer of hope", but with continued rough seas and bad weather, there were dwindling expectations that the fishermen would be found.

At a gathering at the company's headquarters, relatives of the missing fishermen wondered whether the captain was too late in taking emergency measures after the ship started sinking amid high waves on Monday. Some blamed Sajo Industries, the canned tuna company that owns the ship, for not ordering him to evacuate the vessel earlier, according to Kim Kang-ho, a company official.

"Stop blaming the captain! The company should have ordered an evacuation in such a crisis," a person believed to be a relative was seen in TV footage shouting at a company official.

The emotional scenes of grief and anger hit a nerve in a country less than eight months removed from its deadliest maritime disaster in decades. The sinking of the Sewol ferry off South Korea's south-western coast in April left more than 300 passengers dead, mostly teenagers on a school trip, causing nationwide grief and fury.