An operation has begun in South Korea to raise the ferry which capsized more than two years ago killing 304 people, most of them teenagers on a school trip.
The raising of the Sewol, which sank on 16 April, 2014, has been a central demand of the victims’ families.
The lifting of the bow operation takes up about 70 per cent of the overall salvage projectJung Seong-Wook
Many hope the bodies of the nine people still missing will be included in the recovery.
The sinking was one of the worst maritime disasters in South Korea in decades, and triggered national mourning.
The project to raise the Sewol, which will cost £47 million, was announced last year by Seoul and is led by a Chinese consortium.
Preparatory work was completed yesterday with the lifting of the bow section – seen as the most challenging part of the operation – to be conducted over two days.
The 6,825-tonne ferry lies more than 40 metres beneath the surface of the water, off the south-western island of Jindo.
The families of the victims are closely watching the operation.
Officials have said that the main hurdle will be lifting it from the seabed without it breaking up.
“The lifting of the bow operation takes up about 70 per cent of the overall salvage project,” Jung Seong-Wook, who is acting as a representative for the families of the victims, said.
Once the bow is lifted, 18 lifting beams will be placed underneath the ferry.
The ferry is expected to be fully raised by late July if the lifting operation goes smoothly, authorities have said.
In April last year, South Korean President Park Geun-hye promised that the vessel would be raised at the earliest opportunity.
The disaster was blamed on a combination of illegal redesigns, the overloading of cargo, the inexperience of the crew member steering the vessel, and lax government regulations.
The Sewol was carrying 476 people when it sank.
The passengers included 325 students aged 16 and 17 who were on a school trip to the holiday island of Jeju.