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The captain was among the first to flee. Only a couple of the 44 life rafts aboard were deployed. The hundreds of passengers were instructed over the intercom to “stay inside and wait” as the ship leaned to one side and began to sink, dragging scores of students down with it.

“I repeatedly told people to calm themselves and stay where they were for an hour,” Kang Hae-seong, the communications officer on the South Korean ferry that sank on Wednesday, said from his hospital bed. He added that he could not recall taking part in any evacuation drills for the ship, and that when a real emergency came, “I didn’t have time to look at the manual for evacuation.”

It took two and a half hours for the ferry, the Sewol, to capsize and become submerged in the blue-gray waters off the southwestern tip of South Korea. Yet in that time, only 179 of the 475 people believed to have been on board were rescued. By Thursday evening, the confirmed death toll was 25.

As rescuers battle bad weather and dwindling hopes to search for the 271 people still missing, most of them students, evidence is growing that human error contributed to one of South Korea’s worst disasters in recent decades.

Kim Su-hyun, a provincial coast guard chief, told reporters on Thursday that the ship’s captain, Lee Jun-seok, stood accused of violating his responsibilities by abandoning the ferry ahead of most of his passengers. Coast guard officials who questioned Mr. Lee on Thursday said they were reviewing possible criminal charges, while the police said they were investigating whether he had escaped aboard one of the few life rafts used.

“I can’t lift my face before the passengers and family members of those missing,” Mr. Lee said during a brief appearance before reporters on Thursday.

The New York Times, "Hope Fades as Human Error Suspected in Ferry Sinking."

A profound tragedy.

More than 280 people, most of them students, remained unaccounted for Wednesday night as coast guard and navy divers continued to search a ferry that sank hours earlier off the southwestern tip of South Korea.

By nightfall, four people were confirmed dead, including a high school student and a member of the ferry’s crew. But fears that the sinking could become one of the worst peacetime disasters in the country increased as rescued passengers told news outlets that they believed that many people had been trapped below deck after those aboard heard a loud noise and the ship began sinking rapidly.

Some rescued passengers who had been below deck told reporters that even while the ship was tilting, they were told to stay in their seats.

“We must not give up,” President Park Geun-hye said from the headquarters of the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, which is coordinating the rescue efforts. “We must do our best to rescue even one of those passengers and students who may not have escaped from the ship.”

… Among the passengers were 325 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, south of Seoul. So far, 75 of them are known to have been rescued. The students were on an overnight voyage to Jeju, a popular resort island, where they had been scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning for a four-day field trip and sightseeing.

The ministry reported that a total of 174 passengers and crew members were known to have been rescued; given the known deaths, that left 284 of the 462 people on the ferry unaccounted for. Earlier in the day, the ministry had issued different figures, including a much lower estimate for the number of missing; it attributed the mistakes to confusing reports from the scene.

The New York Times, “Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks”

The disappearance of a Malaysian airliner about an hour into a flight to Beijing is an “unprecedented mystery”, the civil aviation chief said on Monday, as a massive air and sea search now in its third day failed to find any trace of the plane or 239 people on board.

Dozens of ships and aircraft from 10 countries scoured the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam as questions mounted over possible security lapses and whether a bomb or hijacking attempt could have brought down the Boeing 777-200ER which took off from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

The area of the search would be widened from Tuesday, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the head of Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority, told reporters.

A senior police official told Reuters that people armed with explosives and carrying false identity papers had tried to fly out of Kuala Lumpur in the past, and that current investigations were focused on two passengers who were on the missing plane with stolen passports.

"We have stopped men with false or stolen passports and carrying explosives, who have tried to get past KLIA (airport) security and get on to a plane," he said. "There have been two or three incidents, but I will not divulge the details."

Interpol confirmed on Sunday at least two passengers used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard had used false identity documents.

Azharuddin said a hijacking attempt could not be ruled out as investigators explore all theories for the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

"Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft," he told a news conference. "As far as we are concerned, we have to find the aircraft. We have to find a piece of the aircraft if possible."

Azharuddin also said the two men with stolen passports did not look like Asians, but he did not elaborate. Airport CCTV footage showed they completed all security procedures, he said.

"We are looking at the possibility of a stolen passport syndicate," he said.

About two-thirds of the 227 passengers and 12 crew now presumed to have died aboard the plane were Chinese. The airline said other nationalities included 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans.

Reuters, "Ten Countries Scour Sea for Malaysia Jet Lost in ‘Unprecedented Mystery’"

A 12-mile-long oil slick spotted between Malaysia and Vietnam on Saturday afternoon is thought to be the first sign that a missing Malaysia Airlines flight with 239 people aboard went down in the waters between southernmost Vietnam and northern Malaysia, according to Vietnam’s director of civil aviation.

“An AN26 aircraft of the Vietnam Navy has discovered an oil slick about 20 kilometers in the search area, which is suspected of being a crashed Boeing aircraft,” Lai Xuan Thanh, the director of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam said. “We have announced that information to Singapore and Malaysia and we continue the search.”

Mr. Thanh said the oil on the surface of the water was somewhat closer to Vietnam than Malaysia, at the mouth of the shallow Gulf of Thailand. The last coordinates automatically transmitted by the aircraft were from on the Malaysian side near the midpoint between the two countries, when the plane appeared to be in stable flight at 35,000 feet.

The discovery came as Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Singapore and the Philippines staged an intensive search for the missing aircraft, a redeye flight that vanished after taking off from Kuala Lumpur early Saturday morning, bound for Beijing, where it was to arrive at 6:30 a.m.

The New York Times, “Oil Slick Hints Malaysian Plane May Have Crashed at Sea”

( http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/03/09/world/asia/malaysia-airlines-flight.html)

“We have no idea what has happened to this plane.”

SPOKESPERSON for Malaysian Airlines, quoted by CNN’s Piers Morgan, regarding Flight MH 370, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

The airline is holding a press conference in less than an hour.

  • And the final grafs in this Times story about Tacloban, the city all but destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan, focuses on resident Jesse Siozon, who lost his grandfather and his job prospects to the storm:
  • "The hospital plans to partially reopen in early summer as a small outpatient clinic, and it will have scant need for post-surgery nurses like Mr. Siozon. His new job: working at an Aetna call center in the capital, fielding health insurance questions from Americans."

President Benigno S. Aquino III called on Tuesday for nations around the world to do more to support the Philippines in resisting China’s assertive claims to the seas near his country, drawing a comparison to the West’s failure to support Czechoslovakia against Hitler’s demands for Czech land in 1938.

Like Czechoslovakia, the Philippines faces demands to surrender territory piecemeal to a much stronger foreign power and needs more robust foreign support for the rule of international law if it is to resist, President Aquino said in a 90-minute interview in the wood-paneled music room of the presidential palace.

“If we say yes to something we believe is wrong now, what guarantee is there that the wrong will not be further exacerbated down the line?” he said. He later added, “At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough’? Well, the world has to say it — remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”

Mr. Aquino’s remarks are among the strongest indications yet of alarm among Asian heads of state about China’s military buildup and territorial ambitions, and the second time in recent weeks that an Asian leader has volunteered a comparison to the prelude to world wars.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan caused a stir in Davos, Switzerland, when he noted last month that Britain and Germany went to war in 1914 even though they had close economic ties — much as China and Japan have now.

Japan has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with China over uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, and even South Korea, which has been quieter about Chinese claims, expressed alarm last year when Beijing announced that it had the right to police the skies above a vast area of ocean, including areas claimed by Tokyo and Seoul.

While China’s efforts to claim rocks, shoals and fishing grounds off the coast of the Philippines in the South China Sea have been less high-profile, the Chinese have moved faster there.

The New York Times, "Philippines Leader Sounds Alarm On China."

Good for President Aquino.  The Chinese government is being a bullying motherfucker here.

Afternoon News Read 20 November 2013.

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Weekend News Read 10 November 2013.

Weekend News Read 9 November 2013.