Divers have retrieved two more bodies from the wreck of the South Korean ferry that sank last month, as conditions on the ship further deteriorated, officials said on Saturday.
The bodies were found late on Saturday in the inverted, submerged ship, bringing the confirmed death toll from the April 16 disaster to 275, Coastguard Spokesman Ko Myung-Suk told journalists.
Twenty nine are still unaccounted for.
Divers have now swept through most of the ship, which is resting on its side at a depth of more than 40 metres off the country’s southern coast.
The divers have also reported that partition walls on the ship have started warping and are at risk of collapsing, which would further complicate their work, a government task force said in a statement.
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The divers have been under immense pressure from the authorities and the victims’ families to retrieve all the trapped bodies as quickly as possible.
They face enormous hazards and challenges, including near-zero visibility, strong currents and often treacherous weather conditions.
The Sewol was carrying 476 people when it sank after listing sharply to one side.
Of those on board, 325 were children from a high school in Ansan City in the southern suburbs of Seoul who were on an organised trip to the southern resort island of Jeju.
Initial investigations suggest the ferry was carrying up to three times its safe cargo capacity.
The Sewol’s regular captain, who was off duty on the day of the accident, has told prosecutors that the ferry operator Chonghaejin Marine Co. “brushed aside” repeated warnings that the 20-year-old ship had stability issues following a renovation in 2012.
The head of Chonghaejin, Kim Han-Sik, faces charges of manslaughter through negligence and breaches of vessel safety laws, Yonhap news agency said.
At a public park in Ansan, a focal point of national mourning, some 2,000 students from various high schools in the city held a candlelit vigil yesterday night for the victims, with yellow ribbons tied to their arms.