South Korea ferry disaster: The Sewol and the Costa Concordia tragedies in comparison

South Korea ferry disaster: The Sewol and the Costa Concordia tragedies in comparison

South Korea ferry disaster: The Sewol and the Costa Concordia tragedies in comparison

Updated 1 December 2014, 23:45 AEDT

Comparisons are being drawn between the sinking of the Sewol ferry and the 2012 Costa Concordia disaster.

The causes may be very different and the toll far heavier but Italian media have pointed to similarities between the ferry disaster of the Sewol in South Korea and the Costa Concordia cruise ship crash in 2012.

"A case of Schettino in Korea" has been the recurring headline in Italian newspapers in the past few days, a reference to the Italian liner's captain, Francesco Schettino, who is now on trial for the accident in which 32 people lost their lives.

With South Korean rescuers reporting 270 people missing and 32 confirmed dead, Italian media have focussed on the role played by the ferry's captain Lee Joon-Seok, who was arrested on Saturday along with two of his crew.

Here are five similarities between the disasters.

Authority of the captain in question

Schettino was partying with friends until minutes before the crash but was back on the bridge when it happened, although witnesses at his trial have said he appeared distracted and reported confusion about whether he was in control.

The Italian captain's defence has claimed that the Indonesian helmsman twice misunderstood steering orders.

However, experts say the ship was travelling at such a speed that the crash may have been unavoidable.

In the South Korean case, Lee has confirmed that he was not the helm when the Sewol ran into trouble, and was returning to the bridge from his cabin.

Prosecutors have said the third officer was in command when the accident took place.

Claims of delayed passenger evacuations

When the Costa Concordia crashed into rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio and began listing badly near the coastline, panicked passengers were initially told to put on their life jackets and wait inside their cabins.

The order to abandon ship finally came more than an hour after the initial crash, when the ship was almost entirely keeled over, complicating the evacuation because it was difficult or impossible to lower the lifeboats.

In the case of the South Korean ferry disaster, Lee was asked by reporters at a police station during his arrest why the passengers had been ordered not to move for more than 40 minutes after the ship first floundered.

He said that it was a safety measure because there were no other ships in the area that could come to the rescue.

"I thought that passengers would be swept far away and fall into trouble if they evacuated thoughtlessly," he said.

Accusations of captains abandoning their ships

One of the charges against Schettino in his ongoing trial is that he abandoned the ship early.

He has defended himself saying that he fell onto a lifeboat and was then better able to coordinate the evacuation from the shore.

Lee and his 28 crew, most of whom survived the disaster, have been heavily criticised after reports they were among the first to abandon ship.

Video footage has emerged of Lee being rescued from the ship and treated by medical professionals on shore.

Challenges of capsized ships

The sight of the Sewol keeled over off the peninsula's south-west coast before it sank have triggered memories of the Costa Concordia disaster.

Survivors from both disasters reported the same types of difficulties moving in a ship at a 90-degree tilt, with objects falling over, walls becoming floors and corridors quickly turning into perilous flooded wells.

Some of the people rescued in South Korea were seen sliding down the steeply inclined side into the water.

Three years ago in Italy dozens of passengers jumped into the sea or clambered across the exposed hull.

Difficult conditions hindering rescue efforts

Divers in Italy and South Korea both had to break into the respective ships to access those within, and reported problems with low visibility in the water.

South Korean divers entered the ship more than 48 hours after it went down, with one of them saying after returning to the harbour: "You can hardly see your hand in front of you face".

In the Costa Concordia disaster, divers entering the ship used ropes to find their way back out of the vessel with one describing it at the time as a "labyrinth" with visibility as low as just 10 centimetres.

AFP