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Volunteers quietly help families of ferry’s lost

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FILE – In this April 25, 2014 file photo, relatives of passengers aboard the sunken ferry the Sewol, rest at at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea. A sense of national mourning over a tragedy that will likely result in more than 300 deaths, most of them high school students, has prompted an outpouring of volunteers. More than 16,000 people – about half the island’s normal population – have come to help. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

FILE – In this April 25, 2014 file photo, relatives of passengers aboard the sunken ferry the Sewol, rest at at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea. A sense of national mourning over a tragedy that will likely result in more than 300 deaths, most of them high school students, has prompted an outpouring of volunteers. More than 16,000 people – about half the island’s normal population – have come to help. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

A police officer holds up an umbrella for a relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol as he awaits news on his missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Monday, April 28, 2014. Divers on Monday renewed their search for more than 100 bodies still trapped in a sunken ferry after weekend efforts were hindered by bad weather, strong currents and floating debris clogging the ship’s rooms. Officials said they have narrowed down the likely locations in the ship of most of the remaining missing passengers. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Pizzas are placed with other food and beverage offerings on an altar dedicated to the still missing and dead passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Monday, April 28, 2014. Divers on Monday renewed their search for more than 100 bodies still trapped in a sunken ferry after weekend efforts were hindered by bad weather, strong currents and floating debris clogging the ship’s rooms. Officials said they have narrowed down the likely locations in the ship of most of the remaining missing passengers.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken Sewol ferry wipes his tears as he awaits news on his missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Monday, April 28, 2014. Divers on Monday renewed their search for more than 100 bodies still trapped in the sunken ferry after weekend efforts were hindered by bad weather, strong currents and floating debris clogging the ship’s rooms. Officials said they have narrowed down the likely locations in the ship of most of the remaining missing passengers. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken Sewol ferry looks toward the sea as he awaits news on his missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Monday, April 28, 2014. Divers on Monday renewed their search for more than 100 bodies still trapped in the sunken ferry after weekend efforts were hindered by bad weather, strong currents and floating debris clogging the ship’s rooms. Officials said they have narrowed down the likely locations in the ship of most of the remaining missing passengers. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

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JINDO, South Korea (AP) — The mother, slightly drunk, sits on the edge of a windblown dock and wails. A Buddhist monk approaches and wipes the tears from her face as she pours out her grief and longing for her missing son. He leads her away from the dock’s edge and, as she weeps, chants Buddhist scriptures and sounds a wooden gong in a prayer for her son’s return.

“They are really suffering,” said the monk, Bul Il, who came from the southeastern port city of Busan to help the families of the more than 100 still missing in the sunken South Korean ferry. “It’s painful for me to watch their misery,” he said, his face peeling and red from long chants on a platform facing the sea.

Bul Il is one member of an impromptu city that has sprung up at this normally sleepy port for the families of those lost in the disaster. The city runs on the kindness of strangers.

A sense of national mourning over a tragedy that will likely result in more than 300 deaths, most of them high school students, has prompted an outpouring of volunteers. More than 16,000 people — about half the island’s normal population — have come to help.

They handle much of the care that relatives of the missing receive in Jindo as they wait for divers to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones from the wreckage of the ferry Sewol.

Some scrub toilets and bathroom floors at the gym where families sleep, keeping the amenities practically spotless. A man walks with a huge sign that says “I will wash clothes for you.”

They cook huge pots of hot kimchi soup, distribute blankets, towels and toiletries, pick up trash and sweep the grounds. Turkish volunteers offer kebabs, turning on spits. One truck distributes homemade tofu, another pizza.

Cab drivers from Ansan, where the high school students who make up more than 80 percent of the missing and dead were from, provide free rides to and from Jindo, a five-hour drive that would normally run up a fare of 280,000 won ($270).

“It’s time to help those who are mourning. Giving up several days of work is nothing,” driver Ahn Dae-soo said.

Lim Jang-young, a 58-year-old owner of a Japanese restaurant, came to Jindo from the southern city of Daejeon to cook traditional beef soup for family members, other volunteers and journalists. He temporarily closed his restaurant to come help because he said he can’t focus on his business while he worries about the victims and their families.

A man who was eating his soup “showed me a picture of a girl, his daughter, and started crying. I couldn’t resist crying with him,” said Lim, a father of three.

Hundreds of people, many from aid groups, private companies, churches

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