Grief overwhelms funerals for students killed in ferry disaster

ANSAN, South Korea, April 23 (Yonhap) -- A somber atmosphere filled the hall as a woman broke down next to a hearse carrying the body of a teenage girl who was killed in the recent sinking of a ferry off South Korea's south coast.

"Ah, my baby, where are you going? Grandma is here. Where are you going?" the woman said in between heavy sobs, grabbing the hearse as if she couldn't let go.

Family members, friends and teachers bowed their heads in silent tribute as the car left the funeral hall.

Adding a sense of grief were the hymns they had sung during a funeral service for the girl inside the hall.

"Leaving is not a sad thing," they had sung in tears. "Let's meet again in heaven."

The girl was one of 325 students from Danwon High School in Ansan, just south of Seoul, who had left on a school trip to the southern resort island of Jeju last week.

Less than a day later, on April 16, their ferry capsized off the southwestern island of Jindo, leaving hundreds dead or missing.

Of the 476 passengers aboard the 6,825-tonferry, 150 were confirmed dead by Wednesday morning. More than 150 others remained unaccounted for, with most of them feared to be trapped inside the vessel.

The funeral hall in Ansan was just one of 11 places where funerals for a total of 25 Danwon students were scheduled to take place during the day.

A temporary memorial altar set up by the local government was opened to the public earlier in the day.

The altar, built inside a gymnasium, displayed the portraits and nameplates of 22 victims -- both students and teachers -- who have already been buried.

Families, friends, teachers and local residents came to the altar to pay their respects to the dead.

The government plans to open a larger altar at a park next week at the request of the victims' families.

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