Delay in ferry evacuation puzzels maritime experts

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Delay in ferry evacuation puzzels maritime experts
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they attend a memorial prior to a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by Ed Jones - Pool/Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by Ed Jones - Pool/Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 15: A relative of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weeps as she and others stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry on April 15, 2015 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. The ferry Sewol carrying 476 passengers, including 325 school children, capsized off of Jindo Island in South Korea on April 16, 2014 resulting in 304 dead and missing. (Photo by Ed Jones - Pool/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the Sewol ferry disaster weep as they stand on the deck of a boat during a visit to the site of the sunken ferry off the coast of South Korea's southern island of Jindo on April 15, 2015. More than 100 relatives of victims of South Korea's Sewol ferry disaster tearfully cast flowers into the sea at an emotional memorial event on the eve of the tragedy's first anniversary. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A mourner weeps as she pays tribute to the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a temporary memorial altar in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 16, 2015. Tears and grief mixed with raw anger Thursday as black-clad relatives mourned more than 300 people, mostly high school kids, killed one year ago when the ferry Sewol sank in cold waters off the southwestern South Korean coast.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A woman wipes her tears outside a group memorial altar for the victims of the sunken ferry Sewol, in Ansan, South Korea, Thursday, April 16, 2015. With tears, lowered flags and still-fresh anger, relatives mourned the 300 people, mostly high school kids, killed one year ago when the ferry Sewol sank in cold waters off the southwestern South Korean coast. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
In this photo released by South Korea Coast Guard via Yonhap News Agency, South Korean rescue team boats and fishing boats try to rescue passengers of a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after a ferry carrying 459, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/South Korea Coast Guard via Yonhap) KOREA OUT
Sewol ferry captain Lee Jun-Seok (C) is escorted after arriving at a courthouse in Gwangju on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Friday, Nov. 7, 2014 photo, family members of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol wipe their tears after South Korean lawmakers voted during the plenary session at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea. South Korea's National Assembly on Friday approved plans to disband the coast guard in the wake of criticism over its failure to rescue hundreds of passengers during the sinking of a ferry in April. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A family member of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol 3wipes his tear during the plenary session at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. South Korea's National Assembly on Friday approved plans to disband the coast guard in the wake of criticism over its failure to rescue hundreds of passengers during the sinking of a ferry in April. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Sewol ferry crew members (centre R) inside a a court room in Gwangju at the start of the verdict proceedings on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Sewol ferry captain Lee Jun-Seok (6th R) sits with other crew members inside a a court room in Gwangju at the start of the verdict proceedings on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Sewol ferry crew members (C) inside a a court room in Gwangju at the start of the verdict proceedings on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Sewol ferry captain Lee Jun-Seok (3rd R) sits with other crew members inside a a court room in Gwangju at the start of the verdict proceedings on November 11, 2014. After five months of dramatic, often painful testimony, a South Korean court will deliver its verdict -- and possible death sentence -- on the ferry captain at the centre of one of the country's worst peacetime disasters. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this April 19, 2014 file photo, Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry boat Sewol in the water off the southern coast, arrives at the headquarters of a joint investigation team of prosecutors and police in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea. A colleague calls Capt. Lee Joon-seok the nicest person on the ship. Yet there he was, captured in video on the day his ferry sank with hundreds trapped inside, being treated onshore after allegedly landing on one of the first rescue boats. (AP Photo/Yonhap, File) KOREA OUT
In this image taken from video released by News Y via Yonhap, passengers from a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, are rescued by a South Korean Coast Guard helicopter in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after the ferry carrying 477, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue passengers from the ship in water off the southern coast in South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-Seok (C) is escorted upon his arrival at the Gwangju District Court in the southwestern South Korean city of Gwangju on June 24, 2014. Lee Joon-Seok and three crew members are accused of 'homicide through wilful negligence' -- a charge that falls between first-degree murder and manslaughter, but still carries the death penalty. Eleven other members of the crew are being tried on lesser charges of criminal negligence and violations of maritime law. The Sewol was carrying 476 passengers, including 325 students on a school trip, when it sank off the southwest coast on April 16. AFP PHOTO / WONSUK CHOI (Photo credit should read Wonsuk Choi/AFP/Getty Images)
Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, talks to the media before leaving a court which issued his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 19, 2014. The investigation into South Korea's ferry disaster focused on the sharp turn it took just before it began listing and on the possibility that a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives, officials said Friday, as rescuers struggled to find some 270 people still missing and feared dead. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, arrives at a court which issues his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 18, 2014. The investigation into South Korea's ferry disaster focused on the sharp turn it took just before it began listing and on the possibility that a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives, officials said Friday, as rescuers struggled to find some 270 people still missing and feared dead. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
Lee Joon-seok, the captain of a sunken ferry in the water off the southern coast arrives to be investigated at Mokpo Police Station in Mokpo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank Wednsday, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
A family member of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol cries after a pretrial hearing of crew members of the ferry, at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, South Korea, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Hostile spectators cursing, shouting and weeping behind them, 15 crew members from the sunken South Korean appeared in court Tuesday to enter pleas on charges of negligence and failing to save more than 300 dead or missing passengers.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A family member of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol cries after a pretrial hearing of crew members of the ferry at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, South Korea, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Hostile spectators cursing, shouting and weeping behind them, 15 crew members from the sunken South Korean ferry appeared in court Tuesday to enter pleas on charges of negligence and failing to save more than 300 dead or missing passengers. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Family members of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol walk as they try to meet with crew members of the ferry after a pretrial hearing of them at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, South Korea, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Hostile spectators cursing, shouting and weeping behind them, 15 crew members from the sunken South Korean ferry appeared in court Tuesday to enter pleas on charges of negligence and failing to save more than 300 dead or missing passengers. The letters on the boards read: "Are you a human? You are animals. We criticize the crew members who escaped before the passengers of the ferry." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Family members of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol struggle with a security officer, right, while attempting to attend a pretrial hearing of the ferry's crew members at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, South Korea, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Fifteen crew members from the sunken South Korean ferry are in court to enter pleas on charges that they were negligent and failed to save passengers in the disaster, which left more than 300 people dead or missing. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon. Pool)
A man watches the TV news program on the reward poster of Yoo Byung-eun at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, May 23, 2014. South Korea is offering a big bounty to find the mysterious billionaire thought to be the owner a ferry that sank last month, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
South Korean President Park Geun-hye weeps while delivering a speech to the nation about the sunken ferry Sewol at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 19, 2014. South Korea's president said Monday she will push to disband the coast guard in the wake of last month's ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing, calling its rescue operations after the disaster a failure. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Do Kwang-hwan) KOREA OUT
A relatives of victim of the sunken ferry Sewol watches a televised address by South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, Monday, May 19, 2014. South Korea's president said Monday she will push to disband the coast guard in the wake of last month's ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing, calling its rescue operations after the disaster a failure. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, center, prays during a serves to pay tribute to victims of the sunken ferry Sewol at a Catholic church in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, May 18, 2014. The ferry disaster left more than 200 people dead, with others still missing. Government and civilian divers are fighting rapid currents as they try to retrieve the remaining bodies. (AP Photo/Yonhap, Do Kwang-hwan) KOREA OUT
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won is shielded by his bodyguards from angry relatives of passengers from a ferry Sewol sinking in the water off the southern coast at a shelter for relatives of passengers in Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
A TV screen shows U.S. President Barack Obama paying a silent tribute for the victims of South Korea's sunken ferry Sewol during a summit meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye as relatives of victims looks on at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, Friday, April 25, 2014. As visiting Obama offered South Koreans his condolences Friday for the ferry disaster, the South Korean government conceded that some bodies have been misidentified and announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A relative of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol weeps as he waits for news on his missing loved one at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Friday, April 25, 2014. Frustrated relatives of the scores of people still missing from the sinking of the ferry Sewol staged a marathon confrontation with the fisheries minister and the coast guard chief, surrounding the senior officials in a standoff that lasted overnight and into Friday morning as they vented their rage at the pace of search efforts. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People hold candles during candlelight vigil for safe return of passengers of the sunken ferry Sewol in Ansan, South Korea, Friday, April 25, 2014. As visiting President Barack Obama offered South Koreans his condolences Friday for the ferry disaster, the South Korean government conceded that some bodies have been misidentified and announced changes to prevent such mistakes from happening again. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry confront vice police chief Choi Sang Han (C) after they forcibly removed him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll on April 24 stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry confront vice police chief Choi Sang Han (C) as they forcibly remove him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll on April 24 stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO / ED JONES (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry confront vice police chief Choi Sang Han (centre L) as they forcibly remove him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll on April 24 stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry confront vice police chief Choi Sang Han (C) as they forcibly remove him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll on April 24 stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO / NICOLAS ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry express their frustration as they surround police officer Choi Sang Han (C) after forcibly removing him from an office at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster crossed 100 on April 22, as dive teams, under growing pressure from bereaved relatives, accelerated the grim task of recovering hundreds more bodies from the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / ED JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
People attend a memorial for the victims of the sunken South Korean ferry 'Sewol' at the Ansan Olympic memorial hall on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO/ KIM DOO-HO (Photo credit should read KIM DOO-HO/AFP/Getty Images)
People attend a memorial for the victims of the sunken South Korean ferry 'Sewol' at the Ansan Olympic memorial hall on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll stood at 171, but 131 were still missing as dive teams searched in near pitch-black conditions for bodies trapped in the ferry's interior. AFP PHOTO/ KIM DOO-HO (Photo credit should read KIM DOO-HO/AFP/Getty Images)
Coastguard boats and search and rescue teams take part in recovery operations at night at the site of the 'Sewol' ferry, off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose sharply to more than 120 on April 22 as divers speeded up the grim task of recovering bodies from the submerged ship and police took two more of its crew into custody. AFP PHOTO/ Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Coastguards ride a boat during recovery operations at the site of the 'Sewol' ferry, off the coast of the South Korean island of Jindo on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster rose sharply to more than 120 on April 22 as divers speeded up the grim task of recovering bodies from the submerged ship and police took two more of its crew into custody. AFP PHOTO/ Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Coastguard police chief Kim Seouk Gyun (bottom C), vice coastguard police chief Choi Sang Han (bottom R), and South Korean minister of Oceans and Fisheries Lee Ju Young (bottom L) attend a meeting with relatives of victims of the 'Sewol' ferry at Jindo harbour on April 24, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster crossed 100 on April 22, as dive teams, under growing pressure from bereaved relatives, accelerated the grim task of recovering hundreds more bodies from the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / ED JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
A mother, center, of a passenger aboard the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast cries after confirming her daughter's name on the list of the victims found dead at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The grim work of recovering bodies from the submerged South Korea ferry proceeded rapidly Wednesday, with the official death toll reaching more than 140, though a government official said divers must now rip through cabin walls to retrieve more victims. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korean Coast Guard police officers on a boat, sail near the buoys which were installed to mark the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The confirmed death toll from the South Korean ferry disaster rose to 135 Wednesday, but there were many more bodies left to be retrieved as divers swam through tight, dark rooms and passageways to search for nearly 170 people still missing. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Searchers and divers look for people believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. The grim work of recovering bodies from the submerged South Korea ferry proceeded rapidly Wednesday though a government official said divers must now rip through cabin walls to retrieve more victims. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
ANSAN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 23: Students and citizens hold candles as they pray for the safe return of missing passengers who were travelling aboard south Korean ferry the Sewol, which sank off the coast of Jindo Island, on April 23, 2014 in Ansan, South Korea. The confirmed death toll is reported to have risen to 150, with more than 150 people still missing. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Relatives of a passenger on board the capsized South Korean ferry Sewol weep at an area where family members of victims of the disaster are gathered at Jindo harbour on April 22, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster crossed 100, as dive teams, under growing pressure from bereaved relatives, accelerated the grim task of recovering hundreds more bodies from the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
The red sun sets as searchers and divers look for bodies of passengers believed to have been trapped in the sunken ferry Sewol near buoys that mark the vessel in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from the South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago. (AP Photo/Ahn Yung-joon)
South Korean coast guards and rescue workers are seen at the accident site of the capsized South Korean ferry Sewol in Jindo on April 22, 2014. The confirmed death toll in South Korea's ferry disaster crossed 100, but almost twice that number remained unaccounted for nearly a week into the rescue and recovery effort. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man looks at flowers and messages at a makeshift memorial at the main gate of Danwon high school in Ansan on April 21, 2014 where many of the schoolchildren missing from the sunken South Korean ferry 'Sewol' attended. The captain and crew of the South Korean ferry that capsized last week with hundreds of children on board acted in a way 'tantamount to murder,' President Park Guen-Hye said on April 21, as four more crew members were arrested. AFP PHOTO / KIM DOO-HO (Photo credit should read KIM DOO-HO/AFP/Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 21: Rescue workers carry a victim of the sunken ferry off the coast of Jindo Island on April 21, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. At least sixty four people are reported dead, with 238 still missing. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying about 470 passengers, including the students and teachers, traveling to Jeju Island. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean rescue members carry the body of a victim recovered from the 'Sewol' ferry to an ambulance at a harbour in Jindo on April 22, 2014. The confirmed death toll from South Korea's ferry disaster crossed 100 on April 22, as dive teams, under growing pressure from bereaved relatives, accelerated the grim task of recovering hundreds more bodies from the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
Lee Joon-seok, center, the captain of the sunken ferry Sewol in the water off the southern coast, arrives at a court which issues his arrest warrant in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Friday, April 18, 2014. The investigation into South Korea's ferry disaster focused on the sharp turn it took just before it began listing and on the possibility that a quicker evacuation order by the captain could have saved lives, officials said Friday, as rescuers struggled to find some 270 people still missing and feared dead. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
Kim Byung-gwon, a representative of families of passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol, speaks after a pretrial hearing of crew members of the ferry at Gwangju District Court in Gwangju, South Korea, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Hostile spectators cursing, shouting and weeping behind them, 15 crew members from the sunken South Korean ferry appeared in court Tuesday to enter pleas on charges of negligence and failing to save more than 300 dead or missing passengers. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Lee Joon-seok , the captain of a sunken ferry in the water off the southern coast arrives to be investigated at Mokpo Police Station in Mokpo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Fears rose Thursday for the fate of more than 280 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with water off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
South Korean President Park Geun-hye looks at the site where the Sewol sank from aboard a Coast Guard ship in waters off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with about 290 people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list, a crew member said Thursday. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
In this image taken from video from Mokpo Coast Guard, passengers from a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, are rescued by South Korean Coast guard in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after the ferry carrying 477, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
Relatives wait for their missing loved ones at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. A ferry carrying 459 people, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island, sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday, leaving nearly 300 people missing despite a frantic, hours-long rescue by dozens of ships and helicopters. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
In this image taken from video from Mokpo Coast Guard, passengers from a ferry sinking off South Korea's southern coast, are rescued by South Korean Coast guard in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, south of Seoul, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Nearly 300 people were still missing Wednesday several hours after the ferry carrying 477, most of them high school students, sank in cold waters off South Korea's southern coast. (AP Photo/Yonhap) KOREA OUT
South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue passengers from the ship in water off the southern coast in South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
South Korean rescue helicopters fly over a South Korean passenger ship, trying to rescue passengers from the ship in water off the southern coast in South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
South Korea rescue helicopter and fishing boats try to rescue passengers from a passenger ship in water off the southern coast in South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
This undated photo shows South Korean passenger ship Sewol. A government office said the South Korean passenger ship carrying about 470 people have sent a distress call off the southern coast after it began tittering to one side.
South Korea coast guard police officers work to rescue passengers from a South Korean passenger ship, at Mokpo Coast Guard in Mokpo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
A man watches a TV news program showing a sinking passenger ship, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea.
People watch a TV news program showing a sinking passenger ship, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 16, 2014.
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 16: In this screen shot handout of helicopter camera provided by the Republic of Korea Coat Guard, the ferry is seen sinking off as the rescue work continues the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. Two people are dead, and more than ninety are missing as reported. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying about 470 passengers, including the students and teachers, traveling to Jeju island. (Photo by The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 16: In this screen shot handout of helicopter camera provided by the Republic of Korea Coat Guard, the ferry is seen sinking as the rescue work continues off the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. Two people are dead, and more than ninety are missing as reported. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying about 470 passengers, including the students and teachers, traveling to Jeju island. (Photo by Handout/The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images)
JINDO-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 16: In this screen shot handout of helicopter camera provided by the Republic of Korea Coat Guard, the ferry is seen sinking as the rescue work continues off the coast of Jindo Island on April 16, 2014 in Jindo-gun, South Korea. Two people are dead, and more than ninety are missing as reported. The ferry identified as the Sewol was carrying about 470 passengers, including the students and teachers, traveling to Jeju island. (Photo by The Republic of Korea Coast Guard via Getty Images)
A woman offers prayers during a candlelight vigil for the missing passengers of a sunken ferry at Danwon High School in Ansan, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday. (AP Photo/Wonghae Cho)
Relatives of a passenger aboard a sunken ferry weep as they wait for news on the rescue operation, at a port in Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered an increasingly anxious search Thursday for more than 280 passengers still missing a day after their ferry flipped onto its side and sank in cold waters off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People gather to pray with candlelights for the missing passengers of a sunken ferry at Danwon High School in Ansan, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday. (AP Photo/Woohae Cho)
Family members of children are still missing in the sunken ferry the Sewol gather at a gymnasium in Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Fears rose Thursday for the fate of more than 280 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with water off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
People look at the sea from a port where relatives of passengers aboard a sunken ferry waiting for the news in Jindo, south of Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Fears rose Thursday for the fate of more than 280 passengers still missing more than 24 hours after their ferry flipped onto its side and filled with water off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
Flares light up the sea for search and rescue teams during recovery operations at the site of the 'Sewol' ferry of the coast of the South Korean island on Jindo on April 22, 2014. Divers began to locate bodies on April 19 inside a submerged South Korean ferry as the detained captain defended his decision to delay evacuation of the ship when it capsized nearly four days ago with 476 people on board. AFP PHOTO / ED JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
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MOKPO, South Korea (AP) -- It is a decision that has maritime experts stumped and is at odds with standard procedure: Why were the passengers of the doomed South Korean ferry told to stay in their rooms rather than climb on deck?

Evacuations can be chaotic and dangerous, and an important principle in maritime circles is that even a damaged ship may be the best lifeboat. But car ferries like the Sewol, which left about 300 people missing or dead when it sank Wednesday, are different.

Under certain conditions - like those that confronted the Sewol - car ferries are particularly susceptible to rapid capsizing. This makes it critically important that when there is trouble, the crew quickly evacuate passengers, or at least gather them in preparation to abandon ship.

Though experienced, the captain of the Sewol, Lee Joon-seok, delayed evacuation for at least half an hour after the ship began tipping. Passengers, most of them teenagers on holiday, were initially told to stay below deck.

"If you would have not said a word to them, they would have left to the deck to see what was going on," and a crucial step in any evacuation would have been accomplished, said Mario Vittone, a former U.S. Coast Guard maritime accident investigator and inspector. "They certainly made it worse than saying nothing at all."

Lee has worked about four decades at sea, split between ferries and ocean freighters. A representative for his employer, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd., told Yonhap News Agency that he has sailed the company's route from Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern island of Jeju for eight years. A member of his crew, Oh Yong-seok, told The Associated Press that Lee worked on the ferry about 10 days per month.

After his arrest Saturday on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need, Lee apologized for "causing a disturbance" but defended his decision to wait.

"At the time, the current was very strong, the temperature of the ocean water was cold, and I thought that if people left the ferry without (proper) judgment, if they were not wearing a life jacket, and even if they were, they would drift away and face many other difficulties," Lee said. "The rescue boats had not arrived yet, nor were there any civilian fishing ships or other boats nearby at that time."

Vittone and Thad Allen, the former head of the U.S. Coast Guard, said that explanation misses a key point: The captain could have ordered passengers on deck, even if it was not certain that they would have to evacuate the ferry. Allen said in an email that two things needed to be done simultaneously: "Keep trying to save the ship but mitigate the risk to loss of life by preparing the passengers to abandon ship."

Vittone said in an email that while an evacuation would carry risks, there would be no risk in gathering passengers at "muster stations," designated areas the crew would identify during a safety demonstration early in the voyage. From these areas, crew members could make sure everyone had life vests on and then direct people to emergency exits.

"He could have always changed his order if the ship wasn't sinking," he said. "Worst case then would have been that he would have made his passengers suffer the inconvenience of standing around on deck for a few minutes."

While it is not yet certain just what happened with the Sewol, car ferries can tip quickly because of what is known as the "free surface effect." Water that collects on the car deck, which extends the length of the ship, can accelerate the capsizing as it sloshes around. This is not an issue with other ferries, whose decks near the water line are compartmentalized. Even a modest shift in a car ferry's cargo could tilt the ship initially, and if water enters the car deck, the free surface effect could take hold.

Once the Sewol started listing severely, life boats were submerged on one side and equally useless on the other, where gravity held them to the side of the ferry. Passengers became trapped as the ship tilted so badly that walls became ceilings.

Following a pair of European sinkings in which more than 1,000 people died - the Herald of Free Enterprise in 1987 and the Estonia in 1994 - the United Nations' International Maritime Organization studied car ferry design flaws as well as how best to evacuate vessels.

The changes, which included better escape routes and an evacuation analysis in the design process, applied to newly built ships. The Sewol was built in 1994, and thus was not subject to these regulations.

Car ferry crews should know that once the ship becomes unstable, a quick evacuation is essential, maritime experts said.

The head of the association that represents passenger ferries said he was puzzled by the lack of a command to head to muster stations, though he cautioned that a reasonable explanation may emerge.

"It's important because in the case that there is an evacuation order eventually, people are prepared," said Len Roueche, CEO of Interferry, a Canada-based association that represents the ferry industry worldwide.

Members of the Korea Research Institute of Ships and Ocean Engineering noted the problems with evacuating passenger ships in a 2003 study. Because passengers are unfamiliar with the often narrow and potentially complex passageways, "they may be confused in selecting evacuation routes: this could result in a delay in evacuation time and may cause some serious consequences," the authors wrote.

The same paper offered a telling example of how even under favorable circumstances, evacuations can be far slower than anticipated. When a high-speed catamaran began listing in the English Channel in 1995, it took more than an hour to evacuate 308 passengers, although the seas were relatively calm and it was daytime. An evacuation drill well before the accident had taken eight minutes.

Under United Nations rules, crews have to conduct evacuation drills at least every two months. Because the Sewol's route was not between nations, however, it would have been subject to Korean regulations.

Allen, the former Coast Guard chief, said that whatever the rule books say, common sense dictates that as a situation deteriorates beyond salvaging, the crew needs to pivot from saving the ship to saving the passengers.

"If there was some period of time when they thought they could stabilize the boat, that is the best thing you can do for your passengers," Allen said. "But the minute you think the ship is in danger, you have to act to get passengers to the boats."

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