Sunday, Dec 21, 2014

South Korean ferry disaster: Death toll reaches 46 as divers recover 13 more bodies

Relatives of missing passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol struggle with policemen as they try to march toward the presidential house to protest the government's rescue operation at a port in Jindo, South Korea. (AP) Relatives of missing passengers aboard the sunken ferry Sewol struggle with policemen as they try to march toward the presidential house to protest the government's rescue operation at a port in Jindo, South Korea. (AP)
By: Associated Press | Mokpo | Posted: April 20, 2014 8:36 am | Updated: April 20, 2014 11:47 am

Divers recovered 13 bodies from inside a ferry that sank off South Korea, pushing the confirmed death toll to 46, officials said Sunday. The discovery came after rescuers finally gained access to the inside of the ship following three days of failure and frustration caused by strong currents and bad visibility due to inclement weather.

More than 300 people are missing or dead, and the captain of the ferry has been arrested on suspicion of negligence and abandoning people in need. Two crew members also were taken into custody, including a rookie third mate who a prosecutor said was steering in challenging waters unfamiliar to her when the accident occurred.

ALSO READ: Death toll in S Korea ferry disaster climbs to 32

Late Saturday, divers broke a window in the submerged ferry and initially retrieved three bodies, said Kim Kwang-hyun, a coast guard official. These apparently were the first bodies recovered from inside the ferry since it sank Wednesday. Later Sunday, government officials announced that 10 more bodies had been found inside the ferry, bringing the confirmed toll to 46. Officials said 256 people were missing, most of them high school students on a holiday trip.

Details about how divers managed to enter the ship and where exactly the bodies were found or their identities weren’t clear.

South Korean ferry capsize: Transcript shows captain delayed evacuation

Hundreds of civilian, government and military divers were involved in the search.

The ferry’s captain, Lee Joon-seok, 68, was arrested along with one of the Sewol’s three helmsmen and the 25-year-old third mate, prosecutors said.

“I am sorry to the people of South Korea for causing a disturbance and I bow my head in apology to the families of the victims,” Lee told reporters Saturday morning as he left the Mokpo Branch of Gwangju District Court to be jailed. But he defended his much-criticized decision to wait about 30 minutes before ordering an evacuation.

“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.”

The Sewol had left the northwestern port of Incheon on Tuesday with 476 passengers on an overnight journey to the holiday island of Jeju in the south, including 323 students from Danwon High School continued…

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