The sunken passenger ferry Sewol is raised during its salvage operations on the sea off Jindo Island,South Korea, March 23, 2017. The ill-fated vessel with 476 passengers on board capsized and sank off the Jindo Island, South Jeolla province on April 16, 2014. The Sewol has lain in waters off southeastern South Korea for almost three years. (Xinhua/NEWSIS)
SEOUL, March 23 (Xinhua) -- Sunken South Korean passenger ferry Sewol was lifted two meters above the sea on Thursday after having lain in the seabed for almost three years.
According to the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, the ill-fated vessel was brought 2.4 meters above the sea off Jindo Island, South Jeolla province where the ship capsized and sank on April 16, 2014.
The country's worst maritime disaster claimed the lives of 304 people, mostly high school students on a trip to the southern resort island of Jeju. Nine bodies were still unaccounted for.
The passenger ferry was originally supposed to be raised 13 meters above the sea by 11 a.m. local time (0200 GMT), but it has been delayed for technical problems.
Divers had installed beams underneath the wreckage to link the beams to jacking wires. Two jack-up barges lifted the vessel, which had lain about 40 meters underneath the water.
If the ship is floated the targeted 13 meters above the surface, it will be moved to a semi-submersible barge that will carry the passenger ferry to a port in Mokpo, some 90 km away from the Jindo Island.
The salvaging operation, which is being led by Shanghai Salvage, a Chinese company, started late Wednesday and should be done as late as Friday given the favorable sea conditions. The waters off the Jindo Island are infamous for strong currents throughout the year.
The Shanghai Salvage used a so-called "tandem lifting" to bring the ferry to the ground. If it is successfully salvaged, the Chinese company would become the world's first salvaging operator to lift a sunken ship through the method.
The company selected the method to raise a ship left intact through beams and jacking wires, instead of hooking a ship and raising it with a crane or dismantling a ship and lifting it.