Mientras que los medios de prensa y sobre todo televisión andan investigando quién conducía y si el Capitán iba al timón o descansaba, el Ministerio de Asuntos Marítimos y Pesca Coreano (la de Países que tienen un Ministerio del Mar), ha sacado a la luz las conversaciones de VHF grabadas por el VTS. (La traducción del coreano la ha hecho Associated Press). La intención es acallar los mensajes que están convirtiendo Korea en un salsa rosa del dolor, parece ser que el fenómeno de los tertulianos todo-terreno no solo es patrimonio cañi.
El Capitán ya está en la cárcel sin juicio, lo cual puede ser hasta una buena idea para evitar que se mate, pero falta la investigación que seguramente tarde un tiempo.
Por las transcripciones, y sin saber a qué hora tienen el problema que da lugar a la perdida del barco (0830?), se ve que la escora fue muy rápida, la superficie libre debió provocar un corrimiento de la carga y tras tumbarse, con esa escora era inviable, la evacuación.
Cuando llaman a las 08:55 para pedir socorro indican que el barco se les está tumbando, es el instante en que toman consciencia que el barco se pierde, y que hay que evacuar. En unos minutos pasan de una situación más o menos manejable, con el barco adrizado, a una situación límite, pero con el barco tumbado es imposible evacuar. Esto lo repiten varias veces a lo largo de la comunicación, no se pueden mover con esa escora, como ese desesperado «no podemos ir a comprobar nada» o ese «solo podemos mantenernos colgados en pie en la pared (del puente)». Incluso el barco que llega a prestar ayuda indica que no se puede acercar, que abandonen para recogerlos del agua.
En muchos de los transbordadores (ferries) los puntos de reunión están en los salones, para que luego la tripulación conduzca a los pasajeros a los botes. Si llegan a estar reunidos en las barandas y cubiertas de botes, seguramente hubiera habido menos desaparecidos y los buenos samaritanos, que rápidamente rodearon el barco, hubieran salvado a muchos. Normalmente el lugar más seguro ante un problema es el barco mismo, lo último que hay que abandonar, que para eso los «arquitectos», clasificadores y autoridades lo han construido y regulado, si el barco se pierde nos queda el bote o la balsa y por último, el agua. En el caso de los ferrys, cuando el agua llega al garaje el barco suele estar perdido.
It starts off from the first distress call made by the ferry:
Radio conversation on VHF Channel 12
SEWOL: Harbor affairs Jeju, do you have reception of The Sewol?
Jeju VTS: Yes, Sewol, this is Harbor affairs Jeju
SEWOL: Please notify the coast guard. Our ship is in danger. It’s listing right now.
Jeju VTS: Where’s your ship? Yes, got it. We will notify the coast guard.
SEWOL: The ship has listed a lot. Can’t move. Please come quickly.
SEWOL: We’re next to Byeongpung Island.
Jeju VTS: Yes, we got it.
Jeju VTS: Sewol, this is Harbor affairs Jeju. Do you have reception? Sewol, Harbor affairs Jeju.
SEWOL: Harbor affairs Jeju, this is Sewol
Jeju VTS: Sewol, this is Harbor affairs Jeju. Channel 21, please.
(Radio conversation on VHF Channel 21.)
Jeju VTS: Sewol, this is Harbor affairs Jeju.
SEWOL: Jeju, Sewol here.
Jeju VTS: what’s the current situation?
SEWOL: Currently the body of the ship has listed to the left. The containers have listed as well.
Jeju VTS: OK. Any loss of human life or injuries?
SEWOL: It’s impossible to check right now. The body of the ship has tilted, and it’s impossible to move.
Jeju VTS: Yes, OK. Please wear life jackets and prepare as the people might have to abandon ship.
SEWOL: It’s hard for people to move.
Jeju VTS: Yes, got it.
(Radio conversation on VHF Channel 12)
SEWOL: Harbor affairs Jeju, do you have reception of Sewol?
Jeju VTS: Yes, this is Harbor affairs Jeju, Sewol
SEWOL: What’s going on with the coast guard?
Jeju VTS: Yes, we have notified the coast guard. Currently we are calling Jindo VTS and Wando VTS. Please hold for a moment.
(After this, Jeju VTS notified other ships and Jindo and Wando VTS.)
SEWOL: Jindo VTS, this is Sewol ferry.
JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, Sewol ferry, this is VTS. Is your ship sinking now?
SEWOL: Yes, that’s right. Please send the coast guard here right away.
JINDO VTS: (Ship A), this is Jindo VTS.
SHIP A: Yes, go ahead.
JINDO VTS: 2.1 miles to your right, the Sewol ferry is sinking. We ask for your help in its rescue. Please go there and rescue it.
SHIP A: Yes, we’re on our way.
9:08 a.m. – 9:09 a.m.
(Jindo VTS makes calls to other ships to help out, and a second one responds.)
SEWOL: Jindo VTS, this is Sewol.
JINDO VTS: Yes, this is VTS.
SEWOL: We are too tilted. We’re almost going to fall over.
JINDO VTS: How are the people on board? (Ship A) is approaching your ship as fast as it can.
SEWOL: We are too tilted, we almost can’t move.
JINDO VTS: (Ship B), this is Jindo Coastal VTS. On your portside M/V Sewol is man overboard.
SHIP B: OK. OK. I will alter course port side.
JINDO VTS: Sewol, this is Jindo VTS. Are the people on board on the life rafts or life boats?
SEWOL: No, we’re not yet. The ship is too tilted, we can’t move.
JINDO VTS: How many people are on board?
SEWOL: Yes, 450 people. … It’s about 500 people.
JINDO VTS: Yes, right now, a ship nearby, (Ship A), is on its way.
SEWOL: Yes. Please come quickly.
JINDO VTS: We are even contacting all nearby fishing boats.
SHIP A: The boat next to ours is evacuating. It’s completely tilted to the left, it’s dangerous to approach, but we’ll try to approach while keeping a safe distance as much as we can.
JINDO VTS: Please approach as fast as you can. Please cooperate actively to rescue people.
SHIP A: Yes. If the passengers evacuate, we’ll rescue.
JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, are passengers able to evacuate?
SEWOL: The ship is too tilted, so it’s impossible to evacuate.
JINDO VTS: We are contacting as many patrol boats and fishing boats and they are on their way.
(Jindo VTS communicates with another ship that offers to help.)
JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, this is Jindo VTS. Can you hear? (Repeats four times.) What’s the status of the sinking?
SEWOL: It’s tilted more than 50 degrees to the left and it’s impossible for people to move either left or right. Crew members are asked to wear life jackets and stand by. … But actually it’s impossible to check if they’re wearing them or not. The crew members are gathered on the bridge and cannot move. Please come quickly.
JINDO VTS: OK, Sewol. How high has the water risen inside the ferry?
SEWOL: That cannot be checked either. I can confirm from the front side of the ship that some of the container boxes on the deck have fallen, but I can’t move. I can’t move even one step, left or right, on the bridge, so I’m holding the wall, barely standing.
JINDO VTS: (Ship A) is nearby and is approaching.
SEWOL: Yes, OK.
SHIP A: If passengers don’t evacuate, I can’t move alongside. Anyway, we’ll be careful and move alongside to provide support.
JINDO VTS: (Unclear to whom this is addressed.) Currently, it is completely impossible for the Sewol ferry to evacuate. When you get there and when passengers evacuate, please rescue them as safely as you can.
(Jindo VTS calls other ships.)
SEWOL: Is the coast guard on its way? How long will it take to get here? Harbor affairs Jeju (another shore authority), can you hear the Sewol?
JINDO VTS: Sewol, right now, (Ship A) is approaching. It’s impossible for it to come alongside. It is standing by.
SEWOL: OK. How long will it take for the coast guard to get here?
JINDO VTS: Yes, hold on.
SHIP A: We are right in front of you. We will stand by and when the people evacuate, we’ll rescue them.
JINDO VTS: Yes, understood. Nearby, (Ship B) and (Ship C) are on their way. When passengers evacuate, please rescue them immediately.
SHIP A: Currently, there are some things floating near the front side of the Sewol. It’s impossible to approach. It looks like it’s about to sink.
JINDO VTS: It’ll take 15 minutes before patrol boats arrive. Broadcast to the passengers that they should wear life jackets.
SEWOL: It’s impossible to broadcast now.
JINDO VTS: Even if it’s impossible to broadcast, please go out as much you can and make the passengers wear life jackets and put on more clothing.
SEWOL: If this ferry evacuates passengers, will you be able to rescue them?
JINDO VTS: At least make them wear life rings and make them escape!
SEWOL: If this ferry evacuates passengers, will they be rescued right away?
JINDO VTS: Don’t let them go bare, at least make them wear life rings and make them escape!
JINDO VTS: The evacuation of people on board Sewol ferry … the captain should make a decision about evacuating them. We don’t know the situation there. The captain should make the final decision and decide quickly whether to evacuate passengers or not.
SEWOL: I’m not talking about that. I asked, if they evacuate now, can they be rescued right away?
JINDO VTS: Patrol boats will be there in less than 10 minutes.
SEWOL: In 10 minutes?
JINDO VTS: Yes, in about 10 minutes, 10 minutes!
JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, a helicopter will be there in one minute.
SEWOL: I can’t hear you. Please talk to me slowly and clearly.
JINDO VTS: A helicopter will be there in one minute.
SEWOL: Say it again.
JINDO VTS: A helicopter will be there soon.
SEWOL: There are too many passengers. A helicopter is not enough.
JINDO VTS: A helicopter will be there and other ships nearby are approaching, for your information.
SEWOL: OK, got it, Jindo VTS. I can see a ship, but I can’t read an AIS (location tracking data). What is the name of the red tanker near the front part of our ferry? Ask the ship to stand by, not in front of us but on the left side.
SHIP A: Yes, we’re standing by, but because of the rising tide, we’re being drifted. This is (Ship A). Helicopter is above now, for your information.
9:29 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.
(Jindo VTS talks to another ship that offers to help. It sends out an announcement that the ferry is sinking with 400 passengers on board and that all ships in the area should approach and help. Another ship responds to the call.)
(The Sewol provides its exact coordinates to Jindo VTS.)
9:33 a.m. – 9:37 a.m.
(Jindo VTS tells all boats to throw out lifejackets and lifeboats to rescue people when they evacuate.)
9:37 a.m. – 9:38 a.m.
JINDO VTS: Sewol ferry, Sewol ferry, this is Jindo VTS.
SEWOL: Yes, this is Sewol ferry, Sewol ferry
JINDO VTS: What’s the status of the sinking?
SEWOL: It’s impossible to check. Right now, well, passengers are (doesn’t finish sentence). Coast guard and other ships are 50 meters away. Through the left side, people who are going to evacuate are trying to evacuate. I did broadcast, but it’s impossible to move even to the left side.
JINDO VTS: OK, got it.
SEWOL: The ship is tilted 60 degrees to the left. Right now, even the aircraft is up there, coast guard. (Meaning unclear.)
(The transcript continues with Jindo VTS sending out SOS calls and contacting other boats to help. It also calls repeatedly to the Sewol, which does not respond.)