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South Korea ferry disaster: Families protest over rescue operation

April 21, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
  • Families sheltered at a gym attempt to take grievances to South Korean president
  • Families marched out at night, one witness tells CNN
  • Police blocked families from leaving

Seoul (CNN) -- Angry and frustrated over both the search and rescue operation and the flow of information from South Korean authorities, dozens of relatives of missing ferry passengers intending to march in protest to Seoul were blocked by police from leaving Jindo.

Early Sunday around 2 a.m, the family members left their temporary shelter at an indoor gym and demanded they be able to go to the Blue House -- the official residence of the South Korean President Park Geun-hye -- to present their complaints. 

Divers continue to search sunken ferry
Children's bodies recovered from ferry
Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-Seok was acquitted of murder, avoiding a death sentence, but was sentenced to 36 years in jail on November 11 for his role in the maritime disaster that killed more than 300. Sewol ferry captain Lee Joon-Seok was acquitted of murder, avoiding a death sentence, but was sentenced to 36 years in jail on November 11 for his role in the maritime disaster that killed more than 300.
South Korean ferry sinks
Photos: South Korean ferry sinks Photos: South Korean ferry sinks

The residence is located in the capital, Seoul -- some 275 miles north of Jindo. 

Jindo is the port city where the search, rescue and recovery operation has been based since the ferry, carrying 476 passengers, capsized and sank on Wednesday. Hundreds of passengers remain unaccounted for.

A police cordon prevented the planned march from proceeding, witnesses said. A few scuffles broke out but no one was reported hurt.

"We are not getting any help, so we want to go to the Blue House,' said Nam Sa Hyun, an older sister of a student who is missing from the ferry. "We want to tell the president about our situation." 

Transcript of desperate calls released

"For four days, there is no help. Right now, nobody is giving information on the missing. Our children are in the boat and there is no plan."

Though the police were not aggressive to the protesting families, Nam questioned why there were so many officers at the site of anguished relatives. 

"They're not letting us get on the bus, the police are blocking us," she said. "They're not helping us, they're just blocking us."

South Korean ferry rescue operation  South Korean ferry rescue operation
South Korean ferry rescue operationSouth Korean ferry rescue operation

Several families stayed in the street, attempting to break through police lines in their march. Some families lay down on the ground, sleeping outside in the cold to express their displeasure. 

In a video sent to CNN, angry parents yelled at officials who were trying to convince the families to go back to the gym, which serves as a temporary shelter for families.

"I can't believe them," a woman shouted at the official who was urging them to return.

"Let's go on our way. Why do we sit here and listen to them?'

READ: Abandon ship? In recent maritime disasters, captains don't hang around

READ: Students remember vice principal who took own life after ferry sinking

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