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Korean school tribute leaves empty spaces for unfound ferry victims

Reuters | Friday, Apr 25, 2014

Students from Danwon high school pay tribute in Ansan, at a temporary group memorial altar for victims of capsized passenger ship Sewol.

SEOUL - A floral tribute to the children who drowned in a sinking South Korean ferry features photographs of the victims in their school uniforms and lines of empty spaces waiting to be filled with photos as the confirmed death toll rises.

The pictures, flowers and spaces are banked up the entire wall of the gymnasium near their school on the outskirts of Seoul.

"There are too many pictures, way more than I thought," said crying university student Jung Sun-a, 24. "And they are too young in these pictures. I really hope they can fulfil their dream in the next life. And I hope the missing kids will also come back to their parents as soon as possible."

One wailing old woman shouted out for her granddaughter, Bomi. "Bomi is still in darkness. She hasn't come home yet. What are we going to do? I came here to ask you. She is still in dark waters. What am I supposed to do?"

The Sewol ferry, weighing almost 7,000 tons, sank on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern holiday island of Jeju. Investigations are focused on human error and mechanical failure.

More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers from the Danwon High School, in Ansan, have died or are missing and presumed dead after the April 16 disaster.

The confirmed death toll on Friday was 181.

Classes at the high school resumed on Thursday in sombre mood. Children filed past the floral tribute, offering white chrysanthemums. Yellow ribbons, with names and messages inscribed, were tied around a fence.

In the classrooms of the missing, friends posted messages on desks, blackboards and windows, in the days after disaster struck, asking for the safe return of their friends.

One note was stuck to the window of an empty classroom in the days when hopes for finding the passengers alive were fading fast. It was addressed to a girl called Si-yeon.

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