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article imageFerry that sank off South Korea was overloaded

By Nathan Salant     Apr 25, 2014 in World
Incheon - The ferry that sank off South Korea last week, killing as many as 300 passengers, was carrying three times as much cargo as recommended and might have been dangerously unstable.
The ferry, the Sewol, was carrying more than 3,600 tons of cargo in addition to 476 passengers -- mostly high school students from Ansan -- when it capsized April 16 and sank in the Yellow Sea off the country's southwestern tip.
The ship had a maximum cargo capacity of 987 tons since it was redesigned last year to add more passenger capacity, according to the Wall Street Journal newspaper.
The students were on a holiday trip from Incheon to Jeju Island.
"If the investigation proves that they have violated the laws, the ferry operator's license will be revoked," a director at South Korea's Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries told the newspaper.
"We're reviewing such a possibility," the official said.
The official death toll from the sinking now stands at 157, with 145 people still listed as missing, the WSJ said.
One hundred seventy-four passengers were rescued as the ferry was sinking, but none since.
An attorney for the ship operator, Chonghaejin Marine Co., said owners of the vessel would take responsibility for the disaster if they were found liable for it.
"We'll announce our position after the current investigation is completed," the attorney, Son Byoung-gi, told the WSJ.
"If there is any legal responsibility, the owners are willing to offer their wealth and assets to help compensate the victims," he said.
Officials from the Incheon District Prosecutor's Office expanded their investigation Wednesday, seizing documents from the Korean Register of Shipping, the government-commissioned organization that approved the vessel for safety following the renovations.
Chonghaejin Marine Co. officials have been barred from leaving the country while the investigation continues, the WSJ said.
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