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Transcript reveals confusion over ferry evacuation

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South Korean rescue team members work to rescue passengers believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol near the buoys which were installed to mark the vessel in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 20, 2014. After more than three days of frustration and failure, divers on Sunday finally found a way into the submerged ferry off South Korea’s southern shore, discovering more than a dozen bodies inside the ship and pushing the confirmed death toll to over four dozen, officials said. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

South Korean rescue team members work to rescue passengers believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol near the buoys which were installed to mark the vessel in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 20, 2014. After more than three days of frustration and failure, divers on Sunday finally found a way into the submerged ferry off South Korea’s southern shore, discovering more than a dozen bodies inside the ship and pushing the confirmed death toll to over four dozen, officials said. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

South Korean Coast Guard police officers on a boat check the bodies of passengers believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 20, 2014. After more than three days of frustration and failure, divers on Sunday finally found a way into the submerged ferry off South Korea’s southern shore, discovering more than a dozen bodies inside the ship and pushing the confirmed death toll to over four dozen, officials said. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

South Korean Coast Guard police officers on a boat check the bodies of passengers believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 20, 2014. After more than three days of frustration and failure, divers on Sunday finally found a way into the submerged ferry off South Korea’s southern shore, discovering more than a dozen bodies inside the ship and pushing the confirmed death toll to over four dozen, officials said. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

South Korean Coast Guard police officers on a boat carry the body of a passenger believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, April 20, 2014. After more than three days of frustration and failure, divers on Sunday finally found a way into the submerged ferry off South Korea’s southern shore, discovering more than a dozen bodies inside the ship and pushing the confirmed death toll to over four dozen, officials said. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

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JINDO, South Korea (AP) — A transcript released Sunday of communications with the South Korean ferry that sank details crippling confusion and indecision, with a crew member questioning whether an evacuation was the right move well after the ship began listing dangerously.

“If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?” a crew member on the ferry Sewol asked Jindo Vessel Traffic Services Center (VTS) at 9:24 a.m. Wednesday, about a half-hour after the ship began listing. That followed several statements from the ship saying it was impossible for people aboard the ship to even move, and another in which it said it was “impossible to broadcast” instructions.

“Even if it’s impossible to broadcast, please go out and let the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing,” an unidentified VTS official urged just before the Sewol asked about the prospects for rescue.

“The rescue of human lives of Sewol ferry … the captain should make your own decision and evacuate them,” the VTS official said. “We don’t know the situation very well. The captain should make the final decision and decide whether you’re going to evacuate passengers or not.”

“I’m not talking about that,” responded the unidentified ferry crew member. “I asked, if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?”

The VTS official said patrol boats would arrive in 10 minutes, but did not mention that another civilian ship was already nearby and had said 10 minutes earlier that it would rescue anyone who went overboard.

The captain initially ordered passengers to stay in their rooms, and took more than a half hour to issue an evacuation order — an order several passengers have said they never heard. More than 50 bodies have been recovered, about 250 people remain missing and only 174 are known to have survived.

Associated Press

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