MOKPO, SOUTH KOREA (AFP) - The salvaged wreck of South Korea's Sewol ferry finally reached port on Friday (March 31), nearly three years after setting out on a doomed voyage that killed more than 300 people.
A semi-submersible ship carrying the wreck docked alongside a pier at the south-western harbour of Mokpo, an AFP photographer on the scene said.
The vessel was raised from the sea floor in one piece in a complex salvage operation before being transferred to the semi-submersible for the 105-kilometre journey to the port, where investigators will search it.
Almost all of the dead were schoolchildren and nine of the victims have never been found, leaving the possibility that they could still be trapped inside.
The lifting ship was escorted by a smaller boat carrying relatives of the nine missing, as well as five patrol craft.
"This is only the beginning. I always see my daughter in dreams," said Park Eun Mi, whose daughter Huh Da Yun has not been found.
"We must find all the nine missing people and return them to the bosom of their families", she told journalists.
Underwater fences have been installed surrounding the area where the Sewol sank and divers will also search the waters and seabed there.
The salvage came as the third anniversary approached of one of the country's worst-ever maritime disasters, which dealt a crushing blow to now-ousted president Park Geun Hye.
Investigations concluded the disaster was the result of factors including an illegal redesign, an overloaded cargo bay and inexperienced crew.